Vertical jiging prohibited in Isimangaliso wetland park

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE FROM iSIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK AUTHORITY AND EZEMVELO KZN WILDLIFE

MEDIA RELEASE No: 2010 – 02 -14

VERTICAL JIGING PROHIBITED IN ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK
For immediate release

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife inform the public that the vertical jigging method of catching fish is prohibited with immediate effect within the proclaimed boundary of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first World Heritage Site.

“Park staff and concerned anglers report that an unacceptably high proportion of slow-growing reef and bottom fish are being caught when this method is used for pelagic species,” says iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis.

“They estimate the reef and bottom fish by-catch being as high as 80% which has a directly negative effect on biodiversity which is one of the global values for which the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as a World Heritage Site”

Commenting on the newly imposed prohibition on vertical jigging Ezemvelo KZNW Wildlife CEO, Dr Bandile Mkhize added “It is imperative that the fish stocks within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park remain as healthy as possible.  These reef fish are listed as “critical” on the National Linefish Management Plan which resulted in the national Minister declaring a crisis in the South African Line fishery”

“Research is currently being done to establish to what extent the fish from Marine Protected Areas benefit other reef systems outside the Protected Area boundaries,” he said.

Recently developed types of fishing gear and other technological equipment enable ski-boat anglers to operate at depths greater than 100 metres and in all weathers – factors that increase fishing pressure.

A bottom or reef fish brought up rapidly from depth suffers barotraumas – injury caused by rapid decrease in pressure – which often results in the fish’s eyes popping out or its stomach being inverted and pushed out of its mouth.

Although there are methods whereby these fish can be returned to the water they very often fall prey to sharks on their way down and this results in an unacceptably high number of them dying.

There are authenticated reports of ski-boat anglers finding numerous dead reef fish floating near deep reefs near Sodwana Bay having been abandoned due to the fact that it is illegal to land such fish.

“Sadly, many of these fish – such as the slow-growing yellow belly rock-cod and brindle bass, both of which are specially protected and may not be targeted – are the very species that marine protected areas like the iSimangaliso were established to protect – and these illegal captures cannot be part of the wise management of the resources,” says Zaloumis.

He added that “It would be a great tragedy if one of few known living coelacanths was inadvertently hooked and killed by vertical jigging.” Coelacanths, an ancient species thought to be extinct until the late 1930s, were discovered in iSimangaliso living in the deep Jesser Canyon.

Zaloumis said “The decision to prohibit this fishing method was not taken lightly.”

“We held discussion with our conservation partners Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, organised angling, the Marine and Coastal Management branch of the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, as well as specialists from relevant universities and research institutes”

“We are great supporters of responsible recreational angling in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and most fishermen who visit the Park are committed conservationists,” said Zaloumis.

“Unfortunately there are some who do not understand that a selfish “live for today” exploitation threatens the enjoyment of the sport by the present generation, our children and grandchildren and many other anglers of the future”.

Anglers who are found engaging in this form of fishing or who have vertical jigging equipment in the Park will with immediate effect be liable for prosecution.

South Africa Deep Sea Angling Association (SADSAA):

President of SADSAA, Mr Marius Vermaak, welcomed the prohibition and said that all the Association’s 8 000 members were being informed of it.

“Vertical jigging has never been an accepted method of catching fish in any SADSAA-hosted tournaments because of the damage it causes to the fish resources,” he said.

“Our ethos is to tag and release whenever possible and particularly if research is being carried out on that particular species,” he added.

“We know that any fish brought up from depth suffers a barotrauma and we accept that these stringent measures have to be applied if we are to pass on the joy of fishing to future generations,” he said.

“In our billfish tournaments, for instance, there are penalties if the fish, even if it is of record breaking size, is not released alive,” said Mr Vermaak.

Information Box:

Vertical jigging involves lowering a hooked and heavy metal bar on an inflexible braid or spiderline which sinks to the bottom onto reefs, ledges or the sea-floor.

The jig is then shaken to attract fish which can include species such as slinger, rock-cod and other similar species which may not be targeted.

Sodwana Bay and cape Vidal within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park have become popular venues for this method of fishing from ski-boats as there are numerous accessible, off-shore reefs.

The 220 km-long iSimangaliso Wetland Park includes approximately 9% of the South African coastline from the Mozambique border in the north to 2km south of Maphelane Light house and extends three nautical out to sea from the high water mark.

The marine sections of the Park are divided into on-shore and and off-shore sanctuary Zones where no fishing is allowed, and Restricted and Controlled Zones  where shore anglers may catch fish using a rod and reel.

Ski-boat anglers and spearfishers may only target certain species of pelagic fish.

In terms of the Marine Living Resouces Act of 1998, no person may fish or attempt to fish within a Marine Protected Area unless there is provision within the regulations.

These regulations allow for the capture of certain pelagic bony and cartilaginous fish in certain zones, and since vertical jigging catches not only pelagic fish but other reef/bottom fish this method is inconsistent with the objectives set out in the Act.

The prohibition of vertical jigging has been put in place by iSimangaliso in terms of Section 13 of the World Heritage Act Convention Act, 1999, (Act No 49 of 1999) and Section 52 of the national Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No 57 of 2003) and Regulations of 2005.

The prohibition of vertical jigging came into effect on 1 February 2010.

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