I was invited to attend the meeting with other stakeholders at the Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries (DAFF) offices in Pretoria on 25 July 2019 from 09h00 to 12h30.
The purpose of the meeting was not to negotiate terms but to get the different fishing communities around a table to discuss their concerns about the second draft of the Commercial Freshwater (Inland) Fishing Policy.
The meeting really got a bit out of hand due to a small scale fisher from Petrusville trying to play the “racial card” all the time. I felt that he is heading for a disaster not interested in others views but only his own.
Andries Maree, Bernard Venter, a colleague of theirs and the President of the Fly Fisher Assosiation did their presentations on behalf of Recreational Angling, the Eco-Care Trust and SASACC while the fisher from Petrusville really did his best to complain about how much money in Billions recreational anglers are making from fishing, which is indeed untrue as we know. I had to calm things down most of the time in the meeting due to his uninformed comments.
At the end I had to tell the meeting that I perhaps would have been a millionaire by now if I went out and netted all fish I could find but rather opted to preserve what we have in our dams. Commercial fishers must also accept that they cannot take out what they wish in an uncontrolable manner as the natural life circle and balance of fish stock would be impacted negatively and could even be destroid. The dwindling state of our dams and rivers due to pollution also has to be considered. I explained that most recreational anglers are indeed trying to preserve the fish in our dams and rivers for future generations but commercial fishers will now reap the benefits of this if the relevant policy is approved.
Another commercial fisher from Gauteng was seated besides me and we were able to chat a bit. He was rather interested in how he could do commercial freshwater fishing the correct way to keep it sustainable. I came to the conclusion that small scale commercial fishers had no proper knowledge how to do sustainable fishing. Proper training should be provided to them on how to do this and bag limits must be implemented and their activities properly monitored / controled if we want to still have fish in our public dams and rivers for years to come after implementation of this policy.
I have informed the meeting of what SACS are about as well as out mandate to negotiate with land owners and to establish big Carp venues to our members to fish. Indeed the representative from the Rhodes University (Aquatics) and myself had a discussion before the meeting about big Carp fishing and what it meant for the economy and tourism. We will meet soon again as he seemed very interested and would like to discuss this in detail.
It was indeed communicated by DAFF to the meeting that there will be no 4th or 5th drafts of the policy on the table and I got the feeling DAFF wants to put the 3rd draft on the tables of Provinces and Government for approval as soon as possible. The process will indeed be pushed through as soon as they can as it came up at the meeting that the policy is being planned since 2012.
It was discussed that neither commercial fishing nor recreational angling will be able to manage or inspect the other and it is still unclear who will do it as DAFF also do not have the capacity of inspectors to do so effectively.
It is indeed worrying that some fishers still continue with uncontrolled activities while their activities / permission to do so has been withdrawn by some DAFF provincial fishery managers.
Rural communities are also unhappy about the way recreational anglers “take ownership” of dams or parts of rivers. They feel locked out due to private fishing areas created around public dams and along rivers. Indeed they thought that anglers make lots of money from these areas although the truth was communicated by recreational angling that it pays some fees to Nature Conservation or land owners to utilize these areas. It was clear that commercial fishers had no idea how recreational fishing operates on a non profit basis.
It was proposed in the meeting by recreational angling that a proper system for issuing national angling licenses and a restricted permit system for community fishing be implemented with proper rules developed for both activities.
Going forward, SACS will continue to keep an eye on the process and will be actively involved in communicating with DAFF about our needs as Carp anglers.