Northern Cape small-scale fishers have come out in strong support of the Vanderkloof Dam Experimental Fishery project that is exploring the potential that fishing has for food security.

Raphael Benadie, a community leader that liases with fishers from Vanderkloof, Petrusville and Luckhoff told The Hook that fishing for food and income brings great relief to local communities.

He said the small-scale fishers want the project to work and, in addition, are proposing another project that entails the kraal method of fishing around the dam walls.

Recreational fishers have objected to the project, citing environmental and tourism concerns and claiming that the resource was scarce.

The small-scale fishers said that there has been no credible research done to back up this claim and that their experience continues to be that there was fish in abundance.

“Fishing for livelihoods is much more important than fishing for sport,” said Benadie and added that people must learn to share resources and spaces.

A two-person delegation from Masifundise – Mansoor Jaffer and Michelle Joshua – attended meetings in the area two weeks ago.

Masifundise supports the rights of small-scale fishers to livelihoods and incomes in a framework of environmental sustainability and community empowerment.

This is the first time that Masifundise works in the fresh water fishing sector. The base of Masifundise and Coastal Links is along the country’s coastline, consisting of some 4 000 fishers from 90 fishing communities.

“In principle, we support initiatives aimed at bringing relief to poor communities,” said Masifundise’s Mandla Gqamlana. “We would like to contribute to making the project a success,” but will have to look at ways in which this can happen”.

He added: “The Dam is a public resource and all residents – rich or poor – must be afforded equitable access.”

The Experimental Project is being built at a proposed cost of R1.3 million. The costs will cover fishing gear, a boat, a four- wheel motorcycle, a retail shop, processing plant and a salary for an on-site manager.

Government has contracted the Rural Fisheries Programme (RFP) by the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University to investigate the potential of the fishery at the Vanderkloof Dam.

The experiment will proceed once a draft Fisheries Management Plan (FMP) for the experimental fishery has been finalised.

The Diamond Fields Advertiser reported last week:

“The experimental fishery will be monitored and all biological, economic, social and technical data will be allocated and analysed to determine the biological sustainability and economic feasibility of the experimental fishery. If results prove that the experimental fishery to be biologically sustainable and economically viable, recommendations for development of a subsequent small-scale commercial FMP will be recommended. If not, no further development of commercial exploitation of fisheries resources will be recommended.”

A fish processing plant, a composting plant and a multipurpose shop are amongst the infrastructure that needs to be installed before the proposed experimental fishery can be implemented.

The fishery will be comprised of fishing with a specified number of different gear type and configurations, including gill nets, long lines, hardlines and fyke nets, allowing for the determination of potential sustainable yield and to determine of resources are large enough to support commercial exploitation. The targeted fish will include smallmouth yellow-fish, catfish, mudfish and common carp.“

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