The Impacts of Fishing on the Nearshore Linefish Stocks in the Greater Plettenberg Bay Area
The impact of local subsistence and recreational fishing on our marine resources is difficult to quantify. Not only are there issues relating to overfishing, but the effects of fishing related debris left on the beach can have a detrimental effect on local wildlife.
Many recreationally important fish species are considered over-exploited and collapsed in South Africa. An MSc. study conducted in 2003/2004 on the nearshore linefishery of Plettenberg Bay found that fish stocks in the area have declined when compared to partially exploited and no-take marine reserves. Suggestions towards a new approach for coastal governance were also made but it is not evident if these were applied during the last decade and whether depleted fish stocks have had a chance to recover.
As a result NVT, initiated a study in 2014/2015 interviewing fishermen from Nature’s Valley to Robberg. This assessed fishermen’s attitudes and compliance towards regulations as well as angler’s target species in the area. Catch composition and catch and effort data were also recorded. Comparing data from the 2003/2004, the average size of elf, blacktail, white steenbras and strepie were all significantly lower in 2014. Of all the white steenbras retained by fishermen in the 2015 study period, 48.4% were under the legal-size limit. Additionally, fishermen spend more than twice as long catching fish than they did 13 years ago. Only 40% of fishermen caught their primary target species which was kob, elf and white steenbras. Data also showed that while fishermen agreed with current regulations, target species knowledge was poor.
In order to determine if the data from 2014/2015 showed real trends in the local fish communities, long-term data is required. The study was re-initialised in December 2016 and focussed on the two most popular fishing zones, Nature’s Valley and Keurboomstrand. The results showed it takes on average 5 times longer to catch a fish than it did in 2003. Fisherman still retain a llarge percentage (40%) of undersized White steenbras. The number of undersize blacktail retained by fishermen has increased from under 10% in 2015 to 33% in the current study.
Along with continuing current interviews to determine catch and effort data from fishermen, educational resource packs have been developed as part of our #ShareTheShores campaign. The waterproof resource bag is given out freely to fishermen and include current regulations on the 12 most commonly caught species in the area, as well as important information on three small endemic sharks species also targeted by fishermen. A SASSI pamphlet, a brochure on marine debris and an infographic on what to do with a tagged fish are also included. We are currently assessing the effectiveness of the resource packs on improving knowledge on fishing regulations among fisherman. In addition to this, a fishing club was launched in April 2017 with the Covie community wishing to move towards more sustainable fishing practices. The club is self-sustained and is assisted by Nature’s Valley Trust and the Plettenberg Bay Angling Association. Currently in its second year, noticeable changes to their fishing practices have been observed.