Clarity on fishing concerns

Coral Birss, executive director: biodiversity capabilities, CapeNature

With reference to the letter to the editor (“A river runs through it”, Bolander, October 23), CapeNature would like to take this opportunity to provide clarity on the concerns raised by Margie Frey, regarding fly fishing, the Lourens River, and who is responsible for its protection.

Fly fishing is allowed in all rivers in the Western Cape, including the Lourens, provided that the fly fisher has an angling licence and permission from the landowner of the land adjacent to the river.

Invasive alien species such as rainbow trout, largemouth bass and common carp occur along with indigenous fish species such as the Cape kurper and Cape galaxias, which are well adapted to moving past small natural obstacles when the river is flowing well.

Large obstacles, such as dams and weirs do prevent upstream migration of fishes and impact negatively on the ecosystem functions of the river.

An application for the establishment of the Lourens River Protected Natural Environment (PNE) was approved in 1997 by the Premier of the Western Cape.

Management and control of the Lourens River PNE was assigned to the Helderberg Municipality and later transferred to the City of Cape Town (“City”) in 2000 when Helderberg Municipality was disestablished.

A management advisory committee (MAC) comprising ward councillors, City officials, CapeNature and interested conservation groups was established to give advice on matters regarding the control and management of the PNE.

The MAC was since disbanded and replaced by a protected areas advisory committee. However, due to governance issues, it too has been disbanded. The Lourens River Conservation Society was since established by civil society, to promote sustainable management and development within the Lourens River PNE.

CapeNature has embarked on a process to verify and validate protected areas established under older legislation but are still deemed to be protected areas in terms of the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act (NEMPAA), including private nature reserves, local authority nature reserves and PNEs. This process is still ongoing, and will entail an assessment of the biodiversity value and assessment of whether these areas still qualify to be considered protected areas.

There would then be a process of validation for those properties that do qualify, and whose landowners are willing to comply with the requirements under NEMPAA for protected areas, which include assignment of a management authority, an approved protected area management plan, title deed endorsement and the submission of an annual management report to the minister.

CapeNature’s role will be to provide support and advice to landowners and government role-players on the process.

We wish to encourage members of the public to engage authorities directly and thank them for their ongoing support.