September Article (2022)


Based on my logic, which may not appear logical to other people of course, and my own limited scientific knowledge, the conclusions that I have reached leading to the proposals I am about to make, will probably result in many scientists wishing to see me pilloried. However, after a 60+ year lifetime of both catching and studying fish, I would simply ask the stakeholders and scientists to carefully consider my suggestions. They are made, as a result of the ever-growing crises, which I and many others have both experienced and seen over the past 40 years. These have been to many of our Fishery resources with none more obvious than those of our nearshore species, and, in particular, to our wonderful South African edible line-fish resource. Then you can add to these Abalone and Inshore West Coast Crayfish (Rock Lobster).

All three of these are in such a dire state that it will not be long before certain populations of Line-fish species, Perlemoen, and Crayfish, will have reduced to the level that it will not worth the trouble and cost of trying to capture them! However, they will not become extinct through fishing, as the sea always looks after her own, as opposed to what the “Green Activists” will have us believe.

Nevertheless, we do need to go on exploiting them sustainably, and that latter word means restricting our exploitation levels in a manner which ensures the continued annual survival of a satisfactory residue of each resource. That level must be sufficient for it to enjoy propagative ability to replace annually their numbers that have been removed by natural means, (Death, and natural predation), and by human exploitation, as well as a level of increase. To do this successfully, we need to be able to measure as accurately as possible that residue, subject to a predetermined time frame. Our scientists realise this, but, with all due respect, the factual level of data they depend on is insufficient to make more than a guestimate. It includes factors like differing levels of catch per unit of effort and total annual landings, whilst the accuracy of the data for both is extremely poor. Today, they also fiddle with DNA factors, which, as far as I can understand, (very little I must admit) is still in the hit and miss stage. This is borne out by some statements recently published, as to what DNA readings determined in respect of certain species, being clearly incorrect.

From my understanding of overseas research, and logical conclusions therefrom, the only reasonably accurate way in which to be able to estimate stock residue for line-fish, is by recording all landings over a given period with a degree of size analysis. Then one is enabled to draw conclusions from its comparison with previous total landings for the same period over a number of years. Departmental efficiency in this respect has been questionable for as long as I can remember, as their never was a practical programme to do so, when one remembered the complexity of all human predation. These consist of commercial line-fish and shallow water net-fish landings (includes Treknet fishing) with recreational line-fish caught from rock and surf, estuary. Into this you must collate boat landings, together with a degree of illegal fishing which has now bloomed to an extraordinary extent with Fisheries doing zilch about it! Then, you must add further to this, the landings of Small Scale Co-op and Interim relief fishers, (jointly known as “artisanals”). The Department either refuses, or, more likely, is unable to give me the numbers of the last two, but does indicate that their numbers are expected to increase dramatically? When asked about the number of recreational Permits in issue, their answer is the same. I believe that there are some 300,000 plus Recreational Permits issued with more or less the same number of fishers holding no permits participating, whilst I have absolutely no idea as to the number of artisanals, legal or otherwise.

It is against this bleak background, that the scientists and Department state the absolute fallacy that the existing situation of Line-fish stocks can be shown to be resilient enough to allow this excessive exploitation, not only to continue, but also support the already enacted increases, as well as further increases to Artisanals, and another 150 commercial Line-fish Boat Permits. This is absolute delusional misinformation and irrational thinking that must be stopped somehow immediately!

Absolutely no further exploitation should be allowed on these stocks, but should be immediately reduced by any means possible with the following measures put in place.

1. Compliance measures put in place whereby their officials become responsible for ensuring a far more comprehensive system of recording landings, whilst I acknowledge that this will always be difficult in respect of Recreationals fishing rock and surf.

2. Like all other commercial fisheries without exception, other than net-fish, line-fish boats must launch and return to a registered and allocated harbour or launch site only, and not be allowed to trailer their craft all over the coast.

3. Recreational craft would still be allowed to choose launch venues, providing they only use those that are registered for Recreational usage. One of the conditions for this would be the requirement that the sites enjoy some official presence to control regulations and landings recordal, i.e., like a fishing club official at a club site launch facility, a public municipal site, or private hotel harbour..

4. No recreational boat fishing to be allowed between sunset and sunrise.

5. Regulations for all exploiters need to be simplified to avoid unnecessary work, complicated application, and the costs thereof.

6. All types of Net-fishing in the shallows, from the beach, or a boat, must be done away with as soon as possible. The one exception would be sardine trekking in KwaZulu Natal, where the problem of bycatch, juveniles, and wrong species targeting, does not exist to any significant extent.

7. All levels of Compliance competence must be immediately upgraded.

Commercial crayfish and Abalone fisheries are better in regard to landings data, but many times worse in respect of illegal fishing, with large quantities of the Crayfish quotas again reserved to be granted to more Artisanals. To give you a better understanding of what I mean through all of this, I enclose my proposals for new regulations for Commercial Line-fish, Recreational Fishing as a whole, and Artisanals.

One point I wish to make, is that I have long resented the fact that market forces and illegal fishing have conspired to prevent the ordinary South African from enjoying the pleasure of collecting and eating for own use the delicacies of Crayfish and Abalone available on our own doorstep. This needs to be somehow overcome pragmatically, without putting further strain on their already overburdened resources.

I also summarise here all the approximate figures regarding Rights now already operative since FRAP 22, together with those further committed but still to allocated, compared with the situation for 2020/21. For obvious reasons these exclude Artisanals.

1) In the prior period there were 2455 Rights granted over 18 fishing sectors, of which almost 1000 were insufficient for the Holder to show a profit on his investment in a vessel.

2) After FRAP 22, only 2163 had their rights renewed leaving 292 cancelled for whatever reason.

3) However, 327 new Rights were awarded, mostly to individuals or companies who previously were never part of the fishing industry in any form or association.

4) Now, no less than 1195 Holders’ Quotas are insufficient to show a profit, but the Department, quite correctly, does not want “Paper Quota Holders because they do not create jobs!

5) A further 188 Inshore Rights are promised but still to be allocated, together with, in the Ministers and Departments own words, ‘thousands’ more to be brought in as Artisanals?? From where are the inshore resources going to be found for them?

Lastly, I wish to appeal to our Scientists and Authorities to again look at their creation of so many Marine Protected Areas. They use the overdone excuses that internationally we are expected to conform to proposals and requirements of overseas Agencies, who seem to work on the principle that “one shoe should fit all.’ This time and again has been shown to be a falsehood. Our Scientists also state the principal that MPAs allow populations of species known to be overfished, to recover. As a result of their spawning in a fully protected area, their offspring will then repopulate the overfished areas. No discernible research exists as proof of this, and practical observations give it no credence. Several chapters of my book will, in due course, deal with this in great detail, and I have already uploaded one that is completed to my site. In addition, I have also uploaded my proposals for variations to existing legislation for Commercial Line-fish, Artisanals, and all Recreational activities. I would really appreciate comments and criticisms both negative and positive to all of this.

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