FISHERMEN from KwaDukuza and surrounds gathered at the entrance of Tugela South Beach on Friday to protest the erection of a sign board prohibiting them from entering the beach.In the past, fisherman from all over the North Coast parked their vehicles at an opening at the beach’s entrance, since the prohibition of driving on the sand, and they then walk to their fishing spots.In recent weeks, however, a sign board, which fishermen claim was removed from the beach dunes, along with two large stumps were placed at the entrance, blocking the pathway to the opening and the entrance to the beach. Fishermen are now forced to park approximately 200m away from the beach.According to local Democratic Alliance councillor Kathleen Naidoo, the sign was placed on the beach by the Department of Environmental Affairs.“The sign has since been moved and used along with poles to block off the path that leads to the area where local fishermen park their vehicles. We do not believe the sign was moved by authorities. It seems like there is a third party trying to stop local fishermen from reaching the beach,” said Naidoo. She added that fishermen, as well as the public, have been going to the beach for decades with no problems and the sudden closure does not seem “official”.“This is the only access to the beach and we have used it for many years. “We are liaising with the department about this and have a meeting coming up soon.”In a memorandum drawn up by the fishermen, which will be handed over to the Department of Environmental Affairs shortly, they demand the removal of “the illegal blockage of the public car park at Tugela South Beach”. According to the memorandum, the blockage leaves fisherman, visitors and tourists, abled and disabled, exposed to various risks while parked along the sugarcane fields. “This includes theft of motor vehicle, breaking into motor vehicles, punctured tyres, wild animals and snakes,” the memorandum states. The memorandum also states: “In case of an emergency, paramedics and rescue personnel cannot access the beach. However the residents and visitors to the Tugela South Beach cottages have exclusive rights to drive and access pristine areas of the beach.”The fishermen claim that barbed wire was installed to block off foot paths leading to the beach from the car park. They also allege that domestic waste is being dumped at the car park and they are being blamed despite having placed signs deterring littering and urging fishermen to leave the beach clean and use bins for their waste. They further allege in the memorandum that illegal driving on the beach has been occurring and there are no barriers preventing this.The fishermen are now calling on the Department of Environmental Affairs to investigate the removal of barriers from the original position (at the entrance of the beach) and are also calling for barriers to be installed to prevent illegal driving on the beach. They have also asked for the investigation of an “illegal road” on the Coastal Zone that runs parallel to the beach, from Cottage to Flat Rocks. “The municipality hasn’t been maintaining the roads or the shrubs for quite a while. Fishermen have been clearing shrubs and filling potholes leading to the car park. These services must resume,” the memorandum concluded.Attempts to contact the Department of Environmental Affairs for comment were unsuccessful at the time of going to press.