Anglers ravage fish stocks

The overexploitation of fish stocks at the coast has been described as a nightmare by honest anglers.

14 January 2019 | Fishing

For several weeks now cob, also known as kabeljou, have been caught on many beaches north of Henties Bay, with impunity. Last week Henties Bay mayor Herman Honeb began to put his foot down, in an effort to stop the overexploitation.

Since the start of the holiday season in early December 2018, countless fish have been hauled ashore every day - but few people abide by the rules and blatantly keep significantly more fish than are allowed by law.

“It's a nightmare. It's shocking”, said Spyker Kruger, a fisherman from Henties Bay who offers fishing tours and is worried about the future of the fish resources.

Many anglers shared his sentiments when contacted.

At the centre of the current dispute is the Hanganeni Artisinal Fishing Association (HAFA), whose goal is to create an income for unemployed people through fishing.

“But there were a few loopholes”, admitted Honeb, who is also the director of HAFA.

Among the different types of permits issued by HAFA are those to so-called “associated members”.

“But we did not want to discriminate against anyone, so we also granted permits to retired residents,” Honeb said.

Since HAFA is intended for unemployed persons, there is no quota for the anglers with such a permit - they can therefore catch more than ten fish, which is the limit by law.

“We were on the beach recently and a guy next to us was catching cob without end,” said Kruger.

He confronted the man, who then “flaunted” that he was registered with HAFA and thus could keep as many fish as he wanted. He had already caught 54 cob.

“I was speechless,” Kruger said, adding that all of the fish were well over 70 centimetres and filled with roe.

“This was not an isolated case,” he said.

“These cases cast a bad light on HAFA and Henties Bay and destroy the meaning of HAFA,” Honeb said.

For this reason, he cancelled all associate members permits last Wednesday.

No control

The HAFA saga, however, is only one aspect of the exploitation that took place on the beaches.

Several experienced surf anglers criticised the fact that fisheries inspectors had little presence during the recent holiday season and only “set up a roadblock” from time to time.

Some anglers reported that they did not see a fisheries inspector once during the entire holiday season.

“And roadblocks are useless because anglers know exactly where they are and bypass them”, said one angler.

Moreover, many surf anglers blatantly ignored the rules because the fines were “ridiculously” low.

“For every fish that you are caught you receive a fine of N$300.

But these big fish sell for almost twice as much. The anglers just laugh,” said a surf angler from Henties Bay, who wanted to remain anonymous.

He called for higher penalties.

Chief fisheries inspector Rosalia Mupetani did not comment last week because she is currently on leave. The acting inspector was not available for comment.

Honeb said both HAFA and the inspectors are struggling with financial difficulties, but this should “change soon”.

The lack of control by inspectors was particularly apparent as ski-boats arrived back in Swakopmund from their fishing grounds each day.

Since October, a large amount of snoek have been caught off the coast, and during December some ski-boats arrived back on land with more than 500 snoek daily, while there were no inspectors to be seen.

Although snoek is a migratory fish species, only 20 can be caught per person per day, but few fishermen stick to these rules, simply because of the lack of control.

Erwin Leuschner

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