|“ON THE LINE” - EDITORIAL FROM THE FOSAF CHAIR - Ilan Lax |
As I write this next iteration of the editorial, my family are sitting around a roaring log fire our lounge while I sit shivering wrapped to the gills in my rather cold office. Winter is truly upon us with the first serious cold front having pushed up from the Antarctic. It feels like there must surely be some snow about. Thank goodness for a warming tot of the amber fluid!
Just to update you on the NEMBA issue: I recently said in an article in Farmer's Weekly: "This settlement [the practical and common sense agreement reached with environmental officials] is not premised on science or even on law. Rather, the simple agreement reached was that where trout already occur in SA (except for protected areas) they would not be declared invasive by the DEA. Conversely, where trout do not ... they will be regarded as invasive. Applications to have trout introduced into 'non-trout' areas would require risk assessments to be conducted and the DEA would use the results of these assessments to decide on whether or not to approve an application by seeking to balance significant risks against the possible benefits." This is why we then got involved in a consensus-based mapping process so as to clearly demarcate "where trout occur". I also reported that we were waiting for feedback on an alternative draft set of regulations dealing with trout. To date despite many reminders we have had no feedback on the framework. More on the maps below.
Trout SA, the commodity group comprising fish producers and processors, recreational anglers, academics and the rest of the trout based value chain held its AGM at Old Halliwell just outside Howick in KZN recently. There was a good turn out and a new Mancom was elected. In its short existence the organisation has made a meaningful impact and deserves all of your support.
Turning back to the trout maps, we recently got wind and had sight of three trout distribution maps (Mpumalanga, Eastern and Western Cape) which appear to be titled as 'final' despite a lack of consensus and discussion with ourselves or other value chain stakeholders. What is of deep concern is that these maps look different to the ones that we prepared and sent to the DEA in February 2015. They are also different to the maps that we previously received from the SANBI facilitator. These maps do not augur well and indicate a breakdown in good faith for the process. Recent communication from DEA via the SANBI facilitator suggests that the DEA will unilaterally publish the maps and draft regulations for public comment without any further input from FOSAF, Trout SA or other stakeholders, contrary to our previous agreement.
There are extremely worrying signs that provincial officials are being unreasonable and appear to be making the obtaining of permits difficult for people involved in the value chain. This is contrary to the spirit of the Phakisa agreement and public pronouncements of the DEA which indicated support for the value chain and the creation of an enabling environment.
Where does this leave us? We are aware that the DEA and their colleagues are going to contest our maps in an effort to keep the "trout areas" to be demarcated as small as possible. Even some well-known trout venues are being challenged!
Please can you (and as many others as you can encourage) ensure that you collect as much "evidence" of the presence of trout as possible. Take photographs, keep a journal and record "where trout occur". We may need this information in due course. Especially for the little known places that may well "fall off" the maps due to lack of "evidence".
I believe that the only way forward is for all involved in SA's trout value-chain to unite and work together to achieve the common sense and practical solutions we have been proposing for so long. Please make your voices heard when called upon to do so.
There is much work to be done and our team working on these issues is grateful for the huge support provided by FOSAF members and many others involved in fly fishing and the trout value chain. However, more is needed. I am sure we can count on your generosity.
May I remind those of you who were remiss in not doing so to please renew your subscriptions. May I also remind you that you can now subscribe to FLYFISHING at a discounted rate, therefore benefitting even further from your membership of FOSAF.
RUNNING WITH TROUT - Leonard Flemming
A story about maintaining the Cape Piscatorial Society fisheries
The sweat was dripping from my forehead, but I could not rest for too long. I could see the trout panting heavily through the clear plastic bag. There was still some ground to cover, perhaps one and a half kilometres to the car and I had to get there before the fish started floating belly up.
I lifted the twenty litres of water with the ten trout in it and scrambled across the downhill rocky terrain in the Kromrivier kloof. Philip Hills, my fishing companion, had caught up with me and was short on my heels carrying his bag of fish. We were on a trout stocking mission. A legal one; in other words, the type Cape Nature granted permits for.
The Kromrivier had been selected in the Cape Nature river rehabilitation project for alien fish eradication. The rainbow trout, which were stocked in the late 1960's, were a threat to the Doring River fiery redfin (Pseudobarbus plegethon) translocation project planned for the Kromrivier.
Due to a dismal Jan Du Toit's River rainbow trout population, the Cape Piscatorial Society had requested to re-stock this river with the Kromrivier trout, which was given the green light by the Cape Nature Scientific Services division. The plan was to breed with the Kromrivier stock at a hatchery to produce enough hardy offspring to make a re-stocking project viable and worth our while.
It was a tough day's fishing and by the end of it the trunk of my car was as wet as I was after carrying bags of fish for several kilometres in the morning. We reached the Molapong De Poort aquaculture facility in Du Toit's Kloof at approximately ten-o-clock that night after a bumpy drive on the Cederberg dirt roads, which caused excessive water spillage in my boot, a flat tyre and the death of four fish due to stress.
Exhausted by a day full of unusual activities, we watched with excitement as the sixteen trout that survived the journey disappeared from torch light into the dark earth pond, which would be their home for the next couple of years. Ryan Weaver, the aquaculture farm manager of the Molapong Trout aquaculture facilities in Du Toit's Kloof, would strip the eggs from fertile hens in the upcoming winter months and fertilize them with our broodstock males to produce future generations of rainbow trout stock for Cape Piscatorial Society waters, including the Jan Du Toit's River and Lakenvlei.
In fact, Molapong had a vested interest in these hardy Cederberg trout and Ryan accompanied us on a second fish-collection trip to the Kromrivier in which we gathered twenty seven more fish. To my relief, these fish were safely transported in a thousand litre container on the back of a Molapong sponsored bakkie. This obviously worked far better than a Tupperware box in a boot of a car and there were no fish losses in the second trip.
Speaking of Molapong and their aquaculture facilities in Du Toit's Kloof reminded me of another, but different adventure involving fish collected from the Du Kloof Lodge fishing ponds. There had been numerous complaints about the water quality of the Molenaars River below the Lodge in the past three years. To prevent any heated debates about this, Molapong performed a water quality assessment of the Du Kloof Lodge property and its surrounds to shed some 'light' on the sources of the murky and smelly river water. One of the 'factors' contributing to water turbidity was tench in the fishing ponds next to the Du Kloof Lodge (not to be confused with the Du Kloof Molapong Trout aquaculture ponds nearby). The feeding habits of these cyprinids (which are very similar to the grubbing habits of carp) stir up the mud in water, leading to water turbidity issues. So in contrast to the Kromrivier trout collected for breeding and stocking purposes, the tench would be collected to kill and pass on for food to the previously disadvantaged community in Paarl.
Killing the tench proved to be much harder than anticipated. The initial plan was to drain the ponds with trash pumps and net the bigger fish and leave the ponds to dry for a forty eight hour period to kill the remaining fish. By the time I had dragged the haul net through the first pond in my undies at eleven-o-clock at night, Garnet Prince and Bernard Charles had three pumps running high on fuel for six hours and the pond was only two thirds down in water level.
What we discovered in the net was even more disturbing than the fuel costs. Besides the odd trout, platannas and adult tench, there were thousands of tench fry that were less than three centimetres long. Right then and there we realised that the project had failed. The fuel costs of continuously running four trash pumps had depleted the funds sponsored by FOSAF and we speculated that the tench fry had a good chance to survive in small puddles after the ponds had been drained. It was clear that physical fish removal methods were simply too ambitious in this case and a future plan to use chemicals for tench removal came into play. The trout and tench adventures will continue in the year 2016 in which the first Jan Du Toit's River stocking attempt will hopefully take place by helicopter and the tench in the Du Kloof Lodge ponds will be removed by rotenone with the help of Dean Impson from Cape Nature, but that's a different story.
I believe that through trial and error over a couple of years we've come a few steps closer to long-standing dreams becoming true. The older I grow and the more I am involved with these kinds of projects, the better I understand the sayings: "Nothing comes easy in life", and: "Patience is a virtue". I guess you'll have to be patient and wait to read how things pan out in the next story.
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