André Mouton, George:
For some weeks now dead fish have been spotted /picked up by SANParks (Ebb & Flow) rangers along our coast from Swartvlei up until Wilderness. Swartvlei and Touw River mouths have been closed for months, maybe even more than a year...
Great Brak River mouth same story...
Finally the authorities woke up yesterday and opened Hartenbos River mouth, the results is sickening, dead fish were everywhere, some cob even up to 8kg were lying around dead...
Do we now want the same to happen everywhere along our coast, are there still conservationists around who care or is nature also being commercialised these days?
Anglers along the south coast are being harassed for permits, which we by the way take out year in, year out...
Poachers are operating on a regular basis especially at Touw River, they are not harassed for their actions nor does law enforcement take place to bring them to book.
Anglers along the coast are crying out about our river mouths but it falls on deaf ears or people are in denial of what's going on around them.
What needs to happen before the powers that be wake up?
Hartenbos river is not in the Park and thus we can't account for it. We certainly can account for the Touw River estuary in Wilderness. South African National Parks is monitoring the Touw River estuary closely following the death of fish that amounted to 159 since
20 August 2019. Jonathan Britton, marine ranger in Wilderness, says, "The first mortalities were noticed in mid-August and have been restricted to the lower section of the Touw Estuary.
"The mortality event appears to be short-lived, as mortality numbers have dropped off significantly since 20 August. SANParks rangers intervened by regular patrols in the area to identify species impacted, count total mortalities and remove carcasses."
In addition to water quality being checked sick fish were caught, euthanised and various blood and tissue samples taken by SANParks Scientific Services in Rondevlei, Departmental colleagues from Cape Town and an independent scientist from George to determine the type of infection.
Underwater cameras were also deployed to visually observe the fish.
At this stage superficial examination indicates the presence of both a bacterial and fungal infection.
Fortunately the infections do not appear to be flesh eating.
Bacterial and fungal infections in fish are not well documented and this is also an opportunity to increase our understanding of these processes".
Although the cause of the infection is not known at this stage, all water quality monitoring conducted till this point indicates nothing of particular concern. The water quality results are well within parameters that would be expected during the closed phase of the Touw River Estuary and do not exceed any thresholds that would be detrimental to estuarine fish species.
There is also no indication of any sewage or pollution spill.
SANParks will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as they become available. On a positive note, during the week it was also observed that there appeared to be a healthy population of juvenile estuarine fish that did not show signs of fungal or bacterial lesions.
SANParks recommends that until further knowledge is gained precaution is taken and people refrain from eating fish that have abnormal looking lesions on their skin and avoid collecting dead fish for consumption in the Touw Estuary.