NATIONAL NEWS - Overfishing and environmental factors are leading to a depleted fish population on North Coast shores.
Fish stocks have been decreasing globally as a result of pollution and habit degradation but overfishing remains the primary cause for concern, says Dr Bruce Mann, senior scientist at the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) in Durban.
The decrease is particularly noticeable in resident reef fish species who have smaller breeding grounds and are targeted by onshore fisherman, says Mann.
This is a sentiment echoed by local fisherman Eric Heyns, a Ballito resident and regular angler for 9 years, “We always knew the general fish stock was going down with big trawlers coming to Africa, but the difference in the last few years has been huge.”
These fish are generally favourable for eating purposes and are a staple source of food for many people on the North Coast.
“No one has a problem with guys who are taking 4 or 5 fish home to be eaten, but when you see people who have multiple cooler boxes full then you know they are going to try and sell their catch,” said Heyns.
Fishing licences are readily available and easy to get for a small fee, but the fine print is often not being observed or adequately policed.
Fines for overfishing can be handed out as per the Marine Living Resources Act and repeat offenders may be liable for a substantial fine, but not enough people are being caught.
“This leads to a situation where we might not catch anything for days, fishing 13 hours at a time,” said Heyns.
According to the Western Cape Government, the fisheries industry in South Africa is worth more than R6 billion annually and employs over 27 000 people.
A dramatic decrease in fishing stocks could directly affect their livelihoods.
The situation can be alleviated, however, with steady conservation efforts and informed fishing projects from groups like the ORI keeping fish stocks from hitting crisis levels, says Mann.
These efforts have directly led to steady regrowth of shad and seventy-four off our coast and marine protected areas are consistently being established to stop the decrease.