WATER WORRIES & RECOGNITION FOR RECREATIONAL FISHING
WORDS: Eugene C. Kruger, Editor-in-Chief
Ter inleiding tot ons Julie digitale uitgawe, hierdie staaltjie: ek het ‘n Amerikaanse vriend wat as vryskut-fotojoernalis hengelstories en foto’s uit Afrika vir ‘n Franse hengel- en reistydskrif behartig. Nou woonagtig hier in Suid-Afrika grinnik hy net wanneer ons hier in Pretoria oor die winterkoue kla. Daar in sy tuisdorp in die VSA daal die kwik in die winter maklik tot diep onder vriespunt, maar dit weerhou hulle nie om in die yskoue buitelug steeds met jag en hengel aan te hou nie. Visvang deur gate wat deur die yslaag van ‘n dam geboor word is normale praktyk (en ja, alle spesies word steeds gevang want sien, visse moet steeds kos inkry, insluitende karp en baars!) terwyl verskeie wildsoorte ook gejag word, nie net met geweer nie maar ook met pyl en boog. So moenie té veel oor die koue kla nie, trek maar warm aan en hou aan om jou hengel te geniet – die visse in die binneland gaan nêrens heen nie en dit verg net klein veranderings aan jou taktiek en aasaanbieding om ‘n nuwe PB te land!
Water issues – concerning the lack or quality of it – remains high on the news agenda as South Africa’s general ability to supply potable water to all of its citizens fails with each passing day. It’s easy to substantiate that statement, just take note of what scientists and others are saying, or rather warning. Water is certainly not one of South Africa’s abundant natural resources – as the CSIR points out, only 13% of the land enjoys some level of protection under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act of 2000, and half of the water in our rivers and dams comes from only 10% of the land surface area.
Water is certainly a scarce commodity, and the sad fact is that it has not been looked after well enough. The Vaal River is a sad case in point: despite being an essential feature of the country’s industrial heartland, it suffers so badly from unchecked, uncontrolled raw sewage pollution that the SA Human Rights Commission states that it is “polluted beyond acceptable levels”.
Another worrisome statistic is that 5,3-million South African households, roughly 21 million people, lack access to clean drinking water or any water at all. Additionally, around 14 million people do not have access to safe sanitation. And as we go to press, Nelson Mandela Bay is facing a critical water crisis, while elsewhere several municipalities across South Africa have been hit with water crises, from spiraling E coli counts in Cape Town’s lakes (Zeekoevlei, Zandvlei, Rietvlei and Milnerton Lagoon), in the Touw River in Wilderness; to the drinking water at Nelson Mandela Bay, to the outbreak of typhoid in three provinces and a massive acid mine leak in Mpumalanga that threatened Loskop Dam.
This all makes a wicked mockery of our National Water Week celebrations in March with the theme of ‘Groundwater – making the invisible, visible’ to highlight the importance of groundwater as a primary source of drinking water. What’s the point, if it is so badly mismanaged?
The World Health Organisation ranks South Africa among the top six African countries with ‘safely managed drinking water sources’, but the country’s steadily increasing population, ageing water treatment infrastructure and lack of access to proper sanitation have severely impacted the country’s water resources. As water authority Professor Anthony Turton has repeatedly warned, the lack of usable water is increasingly becoming a reason of social unrest and turmoil, never mind oil or whatever natural mineral.
So here’s the rub: “Ultimately, the issue of water quality lies in the hands of the government. Stricter management and impartial selection processes, scientifically proven solutions can remedy some of the damage that has been – and continues to be – done to our water systems,” says Jurgens van Loggerenberg, GM of BlueGreen Water Technologies, whose highly efficient Lake GuardTM product range was introduced to South Africa in 2020 and successfully managed harmful algal blooms in Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria and Setumo Dam in the North West.
In the normal offering of features in a magazine such as this, politics should never have a place, but what we need now is a ‘water party’, or at the very least a political entity that has clean water at the heart of its policy mission. Any takers amongst our angling community?
On a separate, but just as important, topic, South Africa’s recreational fishing sector has an economic impact of some R18 billion, but is it taken seriously by policy makers regarding the country’s fishing industry?
In saltwater I see this issue is being confronted. Europe provides a good example: its recreational fishing sector has never featured amongst oceanic fishing policies even though it has huge economic and political significance. Europe has some 10 million recreational saltwater anglers generating a total economic impact of 10,5 billion euro and supporting 100 000 jobs. Angling provides many social and health benefits and incomes for its coastal and remote communities. It also increases the knowledge of the marine environment and the commitment to protect it.
So in March this year, the European Parliament Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment, with the support of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) staged a roundtable discussion to explore the possibility of including recreational fishing in its Common Fisheries Policy, the outcome of which enables further exploitation of the untapped potential for a more sustainable blue economy and bring benefits to coastal and remote communities. It would also mean exploiting its beneficial environmental, social and economic impact and improving data collection, management and control. At grass roots level it is a welcome step particularly when government departments set catch limits.
The inescapable fact for both salt and freshwater anglers is that without a fish-supporting water body we will have no fishing at all, so while such issues as noted above can seem to be of little consequence in our weekend fishing adventures, what happens in the upper echelons of government can and will eventually be felt at grass roots level.
Remember that when next you cast a vote! Meanwhile enjoy your winter fishing wherever you are on a bank or beach or boat, and as always, Take Care.
*Something fishy on your mind? / Iets oor hengel op die hart?
The latest print edition of Stywe Lyne Tight Lines is now available in retail and selected angling stores!