'Common understanding' that net fishing will be stopped in part of Langebaan lagoon

2016-06-09 21:12

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Cape Town – Fishing restrictions at Langebaan lagoon were imposed to protect the integrity of the marine protected area, the Western Cape High Court heard on Thursday.

Responding to a legal challenge of these restrictions by local fishermen, advocate Karrisha Pillay explained that the objective of such an area was protection, sustainability and stock enhancement.

She said the fisheries department was of the view that increasing access to a restricted part of the lagoon would have a number of consequences.

The harder population would decline even quicker, to the detriment of all net fishers, and the population of white stumpnose would be compromised.

A regulatory framework was in place to balance interests.

Langebaan on the West Coast is home to the country's only group of traditional fishers recognised as fully dependent on net-fishing for survival.

Livelihoods at stake

Fishermen and Langebaan residents packed the court on Thursday, as a Legal Resources Centre lawyer argued on their behalf.

In contention is a condition in their fishing permits and exemptions that keeps Zone B of the lagoon off-limits.

Zone A is a controlled zone for recreational fishing and power boating, while Zone C is a sensitive sanctuary where no access is allowed.

The fishermen – some, commercial rights holders and others with interim relief rights - make a living by catching southern mullet, better known as "harders".

They felt their livelihoods, and age-old tradition of net-fishing in that area, were at stake.

The fishers challenged the scientific foundation and reliability of environment and conservation concerns.

No net fishing

They questioned the rationality and reasonableness of the fishing restrictions.

Ministers, deputy director generals for the fisheries and environmental affairs departments, the SA National Parks (SANParks) and West Coast National Park were respondents.

SANParks' position was that no fishing at all should be allowed in Zone B, and that Zone A should be amended to accommodate the net-fishers at the expense of recreational fishers.

Pillay said the court should keep in mind that the fisheries and environmental affairs department had reached a common understanding that net fishing in Zone B would be stopped.

This was to have been implemented by the time the current rights expired in 2015, but had not yet been executed due to the litigation.

The applicants wanted an order setting aside the decision to impose the fishing conditions. They also wanted an order for engagement between the parties to determine reasonable access to Zone B in future.

Judgment was reserved.

Read more on:    sanparks  |  cape town  |  fishing  |  marine life

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