Fishing for an inland industry?

23 November 2015 - 21:18 By TMG Digital
A fishing boat. File photo.
A fishing boat. File photo.
Image: Thinkstock Images

South Africa is considering the establishment of an inland fishing industry‚ according to a statement released on Monday by the Water Research Commission (WRC).

Speaking more than a year ago‚ Senzeni Zokwana‚ Minister in the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries‚ said the establishment of an inland fisheries industry was key to food security and marine conservation.

But is the country able to produce this industry?

The WRC in January completed a four-year scoping study on the sustainable use of inland fisheries in South Africa. The report finds there are three sustainable uses for inland fisheries in the country - recreational fishing‚ subsistence fishing and commercial fishing.

According to the WRC: “As the three activities compete for resources‚ this could lead to conflict if property rights are not explicitly recognised and enforced."

“If the rules of the game are not clear‚ it could lead to conflict‚ and this needs to be clarified‚” says Dr Gerhard Backeberg‚ Executive Manager of Water Utilisation in Agriculture at the WRC.

“Inland fisheries use natural water sources and public dams. In contrast‚ aquaculture is the commercial farming of fish. Only angling for recreational purposes and subsistence fishing seem to be viable options in the creation of an inland fisheries industry‚ as the resources for a commercial inland fishing industry are too limited‚” the WRC said.

But the yield from inland fishing would be low‚ the report said. “The tonnage of fish is just not there‚” says Dr Backeberg.

The researchers who undertook the WRC project estimate that large South African dams have a production potential of only 15‚000 tons.

“Recreational fishing‚ with its strong links to the tourism industry‚ is by far the most economically viable option for growing the inland fisheries industry. It is estimated that more than 1‚5 million people are involved in recreational angling in South Africa. Angling is recognised and organised as a sport through official sports bodies.

"A 2007 study by the SA Deep Sea Angling Association estimates that an average affiliated angler spent around R7‚500 per year on fishing and the economic impact of these anglers was about R900 million per year. Since the 1990s‚ however‚ the number of subsistence fishers has increased‚” the WRC said.

If South Africa intends to establish an industry based on inland fisheries‚ the department will have to draw up a clear policy to manage and regulate the country’s resources. It would have to clarify access rights‚ and establish effective regulations and guidelines for co-management and governance of inland fisheries‚ the WRC said.

TMG Digital.