Illegal gillnetting, a growing concern

ILLEGAL gillnetting is huge problem in the country with conservancies and other non-profit environmental watchdogs battling in assisting the Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Fisheries curb and police the phenomenon.

The chairperson of the South Coast Conservancy, Alex Skene, said volunteers from the conservancy have at times removed nets that were over 400 metres long from the South Coast. He said nets have also been found on the Umzikhulu and other rivers on the coast.

“Illegal gillnetting is a major problem on the coast and it seems like there is not enough policing from the department, as they simply do not have the capacity,” said Skene.

“Also, the unfortunate part about the gillnetting is that these nets catch all the fish, even ones that the culprits were not targeting, and thereby compromise the fish population in our rivers, and most of these people obviously do not have a licence for this.”

The Nature and Environmental Conservation Ordinance explicitly states that an application for a licence to angle or to use a cast-net in any inland waters must be submitted, contemplated by the director, the receiver of revenue or a person authorised by the director to issue such a licence. On receipt of the application form and payment of the fees, the relevant licence will be issued.

The Ordinance states that no person shall catch more than 10 fish per day.

Skene also pointed out that primarily fish caught in this way will be sold to non-suspecting persons and used as food.

“Not only can this cause sickness to the people consuming the fish, but the majority of people using this type of fishing cannot swim and precariously balance themselves on a small piece of polystyrene while being fully clothed to protect them from the wind-chill. Should they lose balance and fall into the water, the weight of the wet clothes will drag them to the bottom of the river where they may drown,” said Skene.

SOME IMPORTANT RULES LISTED IN THE ORDINANCE INCLUDE:

• Only two fishing rods with no more than two hooks per rod are allowed.

• No person shall, while angling, employ a method to hook fish other than in the mouth.

• No persons are allowed to catch fish with gillnets, except the owner where the land completely surrounds such waters. This means where no river system runs through the waters or dam.

• No person shall make a feeding area in waters by placing any animal, vegetable or any other substance therein to allure the fish by virtue of the edibility, smell or taste thereof.

• No person shall place an object, which floats in the water, which serves as a marker indicating the place where there is any object, substance, agent or product under the water, which allures, or is likely to allure fish.

• No person is allowed to sell live freshwater fish unless he is the holder of a permit.

Anyone who would like to report illegal gillnetting and other infringements of the Ordinance can contact the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries at 033 342 8101 or contact their local police.

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