Many fishermen angling from the shore along the Transkei coast are paying lip service to regulations governing the number and size of the fish they may catch, and most are ignorant about closed seasons for certain species.
Surprisingly, say experts, the region’s shore-fishery appears to be in reasonable condition, but this is attributable to the inaccessibility of many areas along the rugged coastline, rather than good law enforcement.
According to a scientific paper published in the 25th issue of the African Journal of Marine Science, released this week, conservation and protection of the Transkei’s coastal fish species is almost non-existent.
The paper, ”Evaluation of Participation in and Management of the Transkei Shore Linefishery” by Mann, McDonald, Sauer and Hecht, is based on a survey of the coastline from Kei River mouth north to the Mtamvuna River mouth at Port Edward.
The area includes the marine protected areas (MPAs) at Mkambati, Hluleka and Dwesa, which, the experts say, are not adequately patrolled and provide little protection for shore-fish species.
”They are… not fulfilling their conservation function in terms of linefish protection.”
The paper lists anglers’ main target species as bronze bream, blacktail and dusky kob. Numerically, the most important species in the catches surveyed were elf, also called shad, (18%) and blacktail (16%). By mass, the most important species caught were bronze bream (26%) and dusky kob (18%).
The paper says response rates to the survey — carried out in 1997 and 1998 — were good, and only five fishermen out of the 346 approached had refused to answer the survey team’s detailed questionnaire.
”Most fishers agreed with the principles of the various regulations, but their knowledge of these regulations was poor; a large proportion of fishers also admitted to transgressing them.
”In fact, fishers were often encountered in possession of undersized fish, even though they had agreed with the concept of minimum size limits.”
According to the survey, over a third of all catches of elf were recorded during the closed season (September 1 to November 30).
A high percentage of those interviewed admitted to disobeying minimum size limits (51%) and bag limits (42%).
”Fisher knowledge of the regulations for the species that they were targeting was extremely poor.”
Only 15,5% of the interviewees knew the minimum size, 21,3% knew the bag limit, and 30,2% knew whether the species they were targeting had a closed season or not.
”This suggests that compliance is poor in the Transkei and that measures should be taken to rectify this.
”By increasing awareness of the regulations and the inspection rate in the Transkei, fishers will be deterred from transgressing the law.”
The paper cites earlier research that estimates the economic importance of recreational fishing to the coastal economy of the Transkei region was about R9,6-million in 1995.
It says increasing political stability in the area over the past decade, and the implementation of the Wild Coast Spatial Development Initiative, will see recreational fishing becoming an increasingly important activity in the future.
Further, a 1993 study by the Oceanographic Research Institute showed shore angling was the second most important tourist attraction out of a list of 54 attractions on the Transkei’s coast.
”Better enforced and larger marine protected areas, establishment of a fisher awareness programme and improved enforcement of fishing regulations are suggestions for improving the current management of the Transkei shore fishery.”
According to the paper, ”fishers interviewed were mostly male (98,8%), with similar numbers of white (46,6%) and black (48,4%)”.
”Most interviewees were Transkei residents (57,2%), with the second and third largest groups coming from the rest of the Eastern Cape (20,8%) and KwaZulu-Natal (14%) respectively.
”Fishers interviewed had an average of 21 years of fishing experience.”
Two-thirds of the fishers interviewed were primarily recreational fishers; the balance ”fished for subsistence”. – Sapa