Poachers to Rangers: Eradicating gill netting on the uMngeni Estuary
- By: Steve Cohen
- Short URL: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/poachers-to-rangers-eradicating-gill-nett
The uMngeni Estuary is a hugely productive ecosystem that acts as nursery for many marine species of fish and is an important source of food for an array of bird life. Sadly, the system is under enormous pressure from sewage and industrial effluent discharges, plastic pollution, sand mining and low water flows. Unfortunately, a lesser know threat, illegal gill netting in the Estuary, is having a devastating impact on the fish and the birds that depend on them.
On any given night, there may be five or more nets stretching, cumulatively, for hundreds of metres across the river. Gill nets are often referred to as the ‘Curtains of Death’ and can contain hundreds of fish, including crabs and sometimes bird life.
Unlike cast nets, which are thrown in the water by hand and capture fish inside the net’s mesh, gillnets are set out stationary in the water and capture the fish by entanglement.
Fish stocks in the Estuary are being decimated on a daily basis resulting in a knock-on of ecological impacts, including marquee birds such as pelicans, goliath herons, fish eagles and Giant Kingfishers having to move on to other coastal locations, or starving to death.
The gill net fishers in the uMngeni Estuary are characterised as being unemployed, often homeless and highly impoverished individuals. The fish that they catch and eat for subsistence have a high chance of being contaminated and they may also sell these fish to unsuspecting persons. Most of these fishers precariously balance themselves on a small piece of polystyrene while being fully clothed and loaded with their equipment adding the risk of drowning to their situation.
Unfortunately, the Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Fisheries as well as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife do not have the capacity to police these activities on their own and address the interconnected social problems of the fishers.
DAPP has designed a win-win solution with Green Corridors NPC that aims to empower the fishers to use more sustainable means of subsistence fishing whilst eradicating illegal activities through peer education and enabling increased enforcement of fishing regulations, in partnership with the authorities.
The proposed project will:
- Identify and invite the existing community of gill net fishers at uMngeni Estuary to participate in the programme
- Supply enrolled gill net fishers with cast nets and subsistence fishing licences.
- Train fishers on water safety, sustainable subsistence fishing, environment and health
- Provide links to public health and social welfare services
- Train some of the candidates to become river rangers. Scope of work includes outreach to other would-be gill netters, litter cleaning and sewerage leak monitoring
- Monitor and evaluate the project to inform future interventions in other rivers
- Project collaboration with DAFF and Ezemvelo around increased enforcement and compliance, once empowerment phase complete.
Resources required by the project:
- Full time river monitor, tasked with working with the fishers
- Boat and 5HP motor
- Cast nets
- Water safety gear
- Project running costs
- Masters student field-work costs
Please consider donating to the high impact project.
The cost of the project in year 1 is estimated at R50 000.
Contact Steve Cohen for more information at [email protected],
Or call Green Corridors on +27 (31) 322 6026
Green Corridors NPC
Green Corridors is a social-purpose and impact-focused organization that aims to see communities thrive in balance with the habitats around them.
Our work focuses on three core areas,
- Eco-tourism, creating employment opportunities from natural, open spaces. Giving tourists visiting Durban a chance to experience an entirely different side of our city and directly contribute to our work
- Youth development, ensuring these open spaces play a valuable local role. These projects range from using nature as a tool for early childhood development, occupational therapy and a world class MTB academy
- Environmental management which focuses on ensuring healthy ecosystems for tourism and youth development to take place. Our core areas of work here focus on waste beneficiation and management of open spaces.