The impacts of fishing on nearshore linefish stock

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. These issues not only have a bearing on overfishing but the detrimental effects fishing tackle discarded on beaches can have on local wildlife.

In South Africa, many recreationally important fish species are considered over-exploited and have collapsed as a result. As early as 2003/2004, an MSc study on  nearshore linefishery in Plettenberg Bay conducted by a student attending Rhodes University found that fish stock in the area have declined compared to partially exploited and no-take marine reserves. Suggestions towards a new approach for coastal governance were made, but it is unclear whether these have been applied over the ensuing decade and whether depleted fish stock have had a chance to recover.

Consequently, the NVT initiated a study in 2014/2015, interviewing fishermen from Nature’s Valley to Robberg (western extent of Plettenberg Bay). This study assessed fishermen’s attitudes and compliance with regulations as well as anglers’ target species in the area. Catch composition and catch-and-effort data was also recorded.  The study was re-initialised in December 2016 and focussed on the two most popular fishing zones, namely Nature’s Valley and Keurboomstrand. The results showed that it takes on average five times longer to catch a fish than it did in 2003. It was also found that fishermen still retain a large percentage (40%) of undersized White Steenbras, and that the number of undersized Blacktail retained by fishermen has increased from under 10% in 2015 to 33% in the current study.

Along with continuing interviews to gather catch-and-effort data from fishermen, educational resource packs have been developed as part of our #ShareTheShores campaign. This waterproof resource bag is handed out to fishermen free of charge and include current regulations on the 12 most commonly caught species in the area, as well as important information on three small endemic shark species also targeted by fishermen. An SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) pamphlet, a brochure on marine debris and an infographic on what to do with a tagged fish are also included. The effectiveness of the resource packs has been assessed with follow-up surveys. The organisation’s data shows that these packs have improved fishermen’s knowledge around fishing regulations, sustainable harvesting and disposing of fishing tackle properly. In particular, the Covie community expressed a desire in April 2017 to move towards implementing more sustainable fishing practices. As a result, a fishing club evolved with members from a neighbouring historical fishing community. The club is self-sustained and is assisted by NVT and the Plettenberg Bay Angling Association.

Future priority projects identified as part of the NVT’s coastal programme:

  • Human pressure and storm-surge impacts on the dune system
  • Assessment and mitigation of poaching and illegal harvesting
  • Beach access for disabled persons