Cape Town – The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (Daff) kicked off its annual festive season marine protection awareness campaign in Paternoster on the west coast on Friday.
This campaign, themed “working together to protect our marine resources”, will have activities in all major coastal cities and towns and will conclude in Richard’s Bay during the second week of January 2015.
Most near-shore marine resources such as west coast rock lobster (WCRL), prawns, red steenbras and oysters have almost been depleted due to over-catching and illegal fishing.
This campaign, which coincides with the third and longest period in the recreational west coast rock lobster fishing season, will, therefore, focus on the illegal fishing, selling and purchasing of particularly near-shore marine resources.
Since the start of the recreational WCRL fishing season last month, Daff, working with the South African Police Service, provincial nature conservation agencies, provincial and local traffic authorities and municipal law enforcement agencies, have issued around 180 fines to people who were found to be in possession of fish, particularly WCRL, without a valid permit.
About 66 fines were also issued to people who were in possession of undersized WCRL, while 47 fines were issued to people who were catching WCRL on days when it was not permitted.
Close to 240 recreational fishing permits were also withdrawn when permit holders were found to have contravened their permit conditions.
"With our partnership with the SAPS and other law-enforcement agencies strengthening and bearing good results, Daff is convinced that a strong and solid relationship with communities and citizens – the most important cog in our marine protection efforts – is a prerequisite to continuous and lasting successes," the department said in a statement.
"Towards this end, Daff will engage the public on practical and easy ways of partnering with us."
Partnering suggestions include refraining from buying illegally caught WCRL, joining a local policing forum or neighbourhood watch, fishers reporting their catches accurately and regularly to fishing control Officers and the public reporting suspicious or illegal fishing activity to their nearest police station.
"Daff hopes to make all citizens, fishers and consumers realise their importance in our national effort to protect our valuable marine resources and to improve its status and in doing so, turn them into partners and co-protectors of our vulnerable resources," Daff said.