On Friday 24th July 65 people packed the conference room at the Walkersons Hotel outside Dullstroom to participate in a meeting to discuss the problems confronting the trout industry in Mpumalanga.
The meeting was arranged by FOSAF and the Mpumalanga Trout Forum and was addressed by Ian Cox of Trout SA and Ilan Lax, national chairman of FOSAF although much of the time was devoted to discussing the problems faced by those attending. These included trout destinations, flyfishing clubs, local trout producers, the trout tourism industry and others in the trout value chain.
Ian Cox was the first speaker with a very comprehensive presentation on the history of the negotiations with the authorities since about 2004 regarding the problems arising from the promulgation of the National Environmental: Biodiversity Act (NEM:BA) of that year. Please use the link http://www.fosaf.co.za/documents/Presentation-by-Ian-Cox-Walkersons24072015.pdf to access this very detailed presentation. Possibly of the more important points made by Ian was the fact that the fly fishing zone specified in the relevant Mpumalanga Ordinance was demarcated to protect trout and was not as interpreted by the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency (MTPA) as a trout zone within which trout may be stocked without a risk assessment. Also, Ian pointed out that in July 2014 FOSAF and Trout SA in a meeting with the DEA, DAFF and politicians had reached an agreement as part of the Phakisa process that trout will not be listed as invasive in areas where they occur and outside certain proclaimed nature reserves. Therefore trout will not be controlled in these areas, but the breeding and stocking of trout will be self-regulated to prevent them from being stocked where they do not currently occur or in the reserves. These decisions were further confirmed by government shortly thereafter at a recent MINMEC meeting. Furthermore NEMBA has regulated trout since August 2014 and it has exempted trout as an alien species and this Act prevails over any provincial legislation where it conflicts with this reality.
After tea Ilan Lax led the discussion and it was pointed out that the DEA and certain provincial officials had not accepted the above decisions nor the fact that the NEM:BA overruled their provincial legislation. A prime example of this was in Mpumalanga province. For example local permits were now being endorsed with the wording “Dams only” and permits were being denied or withheld with no reasons given. In addition it appeared that permits were now being demanded for activities not specified in the Ordinance in Sections 62 and 63 Also very worrying was that it appeared that the DEA wished to publish only those maps for trout zones which were produced by the provincial officials which was totally contrary to the agreement reached at the Phakisa meeting and thereafter at Fern Hill. For this reason it was extremely important that everyone informed the committee on where trout occur or have occurred as a matter of urgency.
Several in the audience pointed out that the MTPA were under-resourced and the meeting agreed that steps should be taken to rectify this problem.
The speakers emphasised that in future all in the industry must work as a unified group as this gave the industry real political clout. Moreover it was agreed that before any help could be provided to individuals they should first become a paid up members of FOSAF (go to www.fosaf.co.za & click on “Join”) in the case of recreational anglers and the MTF in the case of producers and others but preferably all should be members of both organisations.
Lastly the meeting was unanimous in giving FOSAF and the Mpumalanga Trout Forum a mandate to negotiate with the MTPA and DARDLEA on their behalf.
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