The small-scale experimental fishery project that is underway at Van der Kloof Dam continues to attract criticism from some flyfishers. FOSAF’s position as an organisation is clear. South Africa’s fresh water resource belongs to all South Africans. We also recognise the legacy of inequality that has restricted access to this resource and that this needs to change.
However, such change must be implemented responsibly so as to ensure that the use of this resource, by recreational, commercial or artisanal anglers takes place on a sustainable basis. A responsible approach to redressing the past requires research to provide evidence driven measures and solutions for sustainability. This means that the ecological and socio-economic risks and benefits of alternative methods of harvesting the resource must be researched so that informed decisions can be made. FOSAF understands that this is an experimental scientific project aimed at testing the feasibility of a community-based fishery. It is thus intended to provide the necessary evidence and data that will assist in this decision-making process on how such fishery resources are utilised in the future.
While we share most anglers concerns about the controversial use of gill nets, we do not agree that this alone is sufficient reason to shut the project down. As far as FOSAF is aware the project has received the required approvals and permitting. Whilst the issue of gillnetting is controversial, this formed part of the permitting/approval but subject to compliance with the project management plan. The role of FOSAF and other NGOs must be to ensure that the project complies with the management plan and then to scrutinise the results and outcomes to provide an independent oversight/watchdog function. We thus need to give the project a chance to run its course in a reasonable and compliant manner. If issues and problems in relation to proper compliance emerge all parties are free to report these and take action.
Proper information must inform our actions. It is vital that flyfishers explore a range of options to support and include previously excluded communities in the sustainable use of our fishery resources. High handed and draconian measures in the name of biodiversity conservation will not build the trust and cooperation necessary to foster these precious fishery resources. Experience has shown that working with communities to develop an appreciation of the value of such resources is a far better and more effective approach to ensuring their sustainability.
FOSAF has noted the untoward nature of some comments about this situation. FOSAF will not engage in personalising the situation by playing the man rather than the ball. This is offsides and unnecessary and does not add to the validity of our arguments.
The use of freshwater systems as fisheries is the subject of new and emerging policy formulation process. FOSAF will, as it has always done, engage with this policy process, in the best interests of flyfishers and in line with our policies and values.
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