Recreational fisheries monitoring adjacent to Agulhas National Park - Mbulelo Dopolo, Cape Research Centre: Scientific Services
Recreational fishing contributes substantially to landed fish mass, e.g. in 2003 the recreational catch in South Africa was estimated at 56 000 tons compared to 16 000 tons reported for commercial line fishery. There are approximately 750 000 active anglers’ nationally targeting already depleted line fish stocks along the South African coast line. The value of the recreational fisheries is estimated to be about 3 billion ZR in 2011. While commercial fisheries have taken the brunt of the blame for the depletion of stock, the impact of recreational fisheries is increasingly recognised. However, the lack of, or limited information to support effective management of this activity, hampers attempts to halt the continued decline or efforts to rebuild depleted stocks. Data are not available for some areas of importance to angling and also for some time periods and seasons due to a lack of investment in scientific research and monitoring in the past.
Most of the effort to monitor fisheries is aimed at large-scale, industrial fisheries to generate reliable estimates and provide defendable total allowable catches (TACs) in a competitive environment. The need to monitor recreational fishing, and harness the potential of recreational fishers as a group of civil society that can play a major role in advancing fish conservation remains unfulfilled. Limited resources to acquire appropriate research equipment and hire suitably qualified people frequently hamper the good intentions of both fisheries and conservation managers to effectively manage this resource.
With the dawn of the concept of ‘citizen science’, research collaborations are being developed between scientists and volunteers, particularly (but not exclusively) to expand opportunities for scientific data collection and to provide access to scientific information for community members. Concurrently, government through the national Expanded Public Works Programme is advocating the use of semi-skilled labour to do labour intensive work while acquiring skills that would enable them to enter the labour market once they exit the programme. Through the EPWP, under the auspices of South African National Parks, the Cape Research Centre (Conservation Services Division: Scientific Services) is training monitors from the adjacent local communities who will contribute to the collection of recreational fishing activity data (catches and effort) along the south coast, Buffelsjags (west) to De Mond (east).
This monitoring is not compliance monitoring, which is the policing of the fishing regulations to ensure that people adhere to them and the issuing of warnings, fines or being arrested s for transgressing fishing regulations. Rather the Coast Care monitors will contribute to providing the essential data needed to improve the management of our severely depleted line fish species, and help foster closer working relations with the angling community. This in turn will assist with the efforts to rebuild these depleted line fish stocks along the South African coastline and allow for continued and sustainable fishing into the future.