I love trout fishing! It has been a passion for almost more years than I can remember.
But, on reflection this multi-layered, textured sport has brought me great joy, excitement, adventure and indelible memories to cherish forever. It has introduced me to wonderful people many of whom have become life-long friends and companions who share the same interests and passion for flyfishing. I have fished alone in wilderness in quiet solitude with only nature for company, my soul has been refreshed and on other occasions I have shared it with likeminded companions – it has taken me to places of incredible natural beauty.
All with thanks to the brown and rainbow trout that were first introduced into South Africa’s rivers and streams from England and North America between 100 and 125 years ago. Since then they have been self-sustaining in many of the rivers and streams finding a niche in the natural systems and confined to specific ranges dictated by limitations of suitable habitat for survival – food, shelter, spawning grounds, water quality and temperature. In the majority of these waterways there is little or no evidence of their presence impacting on indigenous species and in fact in my humble opinion, trout should be recognised as naturalised aliens.
But, we are at war! Those in Government charged with inter alia the responsibility of biodiversity in South Africa and protecting all that is indigenous or endemic to this country, take a different view. A blinkered one in my opinion, a narrow focus without due regard of the impact of their decisions for declaring trout as an invasive alien in the wider context. The battle now is voicing objection to the draft regulations to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act that lists trout as an invasive alien species and appealing for logic, a common sense and a balanced approach. The next step will be the removal of trout from the rivers and streams. An action that in my view and knowing many of the high altitude streams from years of observation and experience, will at a practical level, will be impossible and with the proposed poisoning impact adversely on indigenous aquatic species which may take many years to recover, if at all! If I’m right, one needs to extrapolate this to the huge and I mean huge potentially abortive cost to the taxpayer, something this country can ill afford at this time. There are many things that have far greater impacts on the biodiversity and threatened species than trout have ever had and will do, where the money would be better spent.
Trout fishing in SA in all its facets is estimated as a R1.4 billion industry. Remove the trout and this will in the spell the end of many business the likes of hatcheries, lodges, fishing venues and whole areas where trout fishing is the draw, tackle dealers will close, people will loose jobs and the families they support will be severely affected financially. Already the negative impact of the threat of this legislation and it potential bleak future for people in the trout business is being felt in some areas.
We as flyfishers can play our part by making our voices heard as individuals whenever there is a need, or by being part of the Federation of South African Flyfishers (FOSAF) who speak on our behalf, as does Trout SA. We are extremely fortunate to have a handful of very competent professionals within these bodies, that have given freely of their time to fight the good fight on our behalf – people like Ilan Lax, Dr Bill Bainbridge, Ian Cox and Gerrie van der Merwe. We are in good hands, but and it is a BIG but, that the powers that be need come to the party and take account of the comprehensive, responsible and balanced responses made by individuals and the organizations mentioned. Lets make love not war!