YELLOWFISH WORKING GROUP - YWG February 2019 newsletter

Dear YWG supporter,

We have invited Qurban Rouhani who is the Director of the Rural Fisheries Programme, Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University and the Project Leader of the Experimental Fishery Project on Vanderkloof Dam to provide regular reports on this project.  His first report is below:


For the most of you, the Experimental Fishery Project currently being undertaken by Rhodes University on Vanderkloof Dam is by now a familiar topic.  It has been covered and debated extensively in various fishing magazines and social media, and this is a good thing.  The participation of the public in such processes is not only welcomed but is a vital part of our democratic freedoms and our obligations to achieve a society that has equal opportunities for all of its citizens.   However, these debates need to be informed by facts and as such I will be contributing to this newsletter on a regular basis to keeping readers update on progress.

There has been much concern and anguish amongst recreational anglers about the experimental fishery project – which within the historical context of the recreational fishery sector – is understandable. The experimental fishery at VDK and the processes that have driven it, should be seen as a positive step in how we democratise inland fisheries (it would be of use here to become familiar with the Draft Inland Fisheries Policy that DAFF has recently released).  The process regarding the project at VDK effectively began in 2014. For the first time in freshwater fisheries (and possibly even in marine small scale fisheries) government (lead by the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development) set up a co-management process (called the Advisory Group- AG) to bring all stakeholders and role players together to develop and agree on a framework for an experimental fishery on Vanderkloof Dam.  The AG has no equal, it included relevant representation from national, provincial and local government departments, civil society, the ratepayers association of VDK town, small scale fishers as well as representation from SACRAA / SASACC as well as the local angling club (and of course Rhodes University). A broad spectrum of views, interests and needs, were all brought together at the AG.  `The operations and functions of the AG were not only inclusive but also transparent, in that each member of the AG freely communicated the outcomes of the process to its constituency.  Over four years, the AG debated, negotiated and eventually adopted what is now called the Experimental Fishery Management Plan (EFMP).  This document, almost 100 pages in length, using scientific principals, outlined every step and detail on how an experimental fishery project would be carried on Vanderkloof over a period of two years.  

Only once the EFMP was agreed and signed off by every member on the AG (and this is an important point that recreational anglers need to bear in mind) did the permit application begin.  Two permits (exemptions) were required, one from the Northern Cape Department of Environment (DENC) to conduct the overall research, and the other from the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and this was in relations to the Largemouth yellowish (a TOPS permit).  The project has acquired both of these permits and as such the research is fully compliant and legal.   It is important to point out here, that the permits / exemptions include the use of gill-nets, long lines and fyke nets.  There should be no ambiguity on this.   Our fishery project is open to inspection to any government body, and as an institution of higher learning we are required to comply with all regulations.

The experimental fishery project has two thrusts, it has a biological component (to work out sustainable catch per unit effort, gear selectivity, size…) and the other is the socio-economic component (and I believe this is the part that is widely misunderstood).  A key question of the research is not only to work out what can be sustainably caught, but whether it can be economically sustainable?  And to do this, fish need to be marketed to determine what are the market forces and how would this impact on a possible small scale fishery.  So, the project does market fish locally, but this is done though the prism of an experimental fishery and not a commercial fishery.  The data from the marketing of the fish is as critical to the project as is to what we catch in our nets.  Only if when we have proved biological and financial viability will the experimental fishery transition to a community owned small-scale fishery.    The results of the experiment fishery have always been (and will continue to be) freely available to the AG, and this means that the process to determine if the experimental fishery can become a community- based fishery will be informed by scientific data and include input from the members of the AG. 

All of the fish caught in the experiment are eaten by the community and as such nothing is discarded. 

In August of 2018, we began the biological and socio-economic research, and I can confirm that all of our catches are well within limits set in the EFMP, even for the largemouth yellowish.  We provide regular updates to DENC, DEA and to the members of the AG, so again what we do is transparent.  What is important during the next two years, is to allow the experimental fishery to run its course, allow for data to be gathered in an environment that is free and fair.  Then based on sound scientific data, guide the process further.  On my part, I will continue to provide regular updates.  May I also encourage readers to visit the Vanderkloof fisheries website and to download the EFMP: click here.

Mid-Vaal & Hennops River.

Chris Williams reports that the Army are making good progress at the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Plant (Module 3) and are now working on Module 5. Repairs/rehabilitation should be completed on the Rietspruit end February. The SANDF will then turn their attention to the Klip River sewage pumps and waste water treatment plants. The SANDF are also discussing the possibility of their intervening at some of the malfunctioning plants in the rivers in the Tshwane area.  What is promising is that the E.coli counts in the Vaal are dropping although anglers should be aware that the river is still very polluted.

The next Hennops River clean-up is on Saturday 23 February 0800 to 1400 hours, on the Hennops River (Wierda Road/Saxby Road – Bondev Park).



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