YWG April 2021 newsletter

Dear YWG supporter,

Here is the latest news from the YWG team.


Saving the Sandfish Project.

Jeremy Shelton advises that all is well, and the next bit of news can be expected in May/June. We featured his team’s video, episode 3, which was taken when they visited the Biedouw valley in the Cederberg to observe the Spring migration of the remnants of this once thriving  sandfish population. In case you missed this very impressive production featured in our February newsletter, you can click here.

The Vanderkloof Dam research project.

Dr Warwick Sauer of Rhodes University states that the reports from the research project are currently with independent reviewers. After incorporating any edits these will be submitted to the Advisory panel and discussed. Finally, any further edits are then incorporated, and they are then submitted to the Northern Cape Government. Hopefully, this will be done before the end of May.

In the meantime, it may be worthwhile considering the research done on our dams which included aspects of the productivity of our inland waters. The reports were published in 2015 under the title of “Scoping study on the development and sustainable utilisation of inland fisheries in South Africa.” For Volume 1 click here  and for Volume 2 click here.

All attempts at establishing small scale commercial fisheries in South Africa have failed so far including the most recent one at Bloemhof Dam which is probably amongst our most productive waters.

News from Swimway Africa (http://www.reachingrivers.com/africanswimways/)

Kerry Brink at kerry@reachingrivers.com (FP2021 Conference Coordinator) invites you to save the dates June 21-24 for this year’s Fish Passage conference to be hosted digitally from the Netherlands. To register click here.

The theme of this year’s four-day international webinar is Global Solutions for River Connectivity Issues. Now is the time to come together as a community to focus on the future of river connectivity. Fish Passage experts will present the best international showcase projects and research from across the world, covering a wide range of globally relevant fish passage topics. Over the course of 4 days they will organize 2.5 hour sessions each day, making sure to give people from all continents the opportunity to attend. 

 They are still working on the exciting program, including live on-site interviews, messages from their sponsors and discussion panels, and would like to invite you to nominate a keynote for this conference. They are looking for people who can give us powerful talks covering a range of inspiring case studies and topics from across the world. If you know of a person or project that fits these criteria - please nominate them here (deadline: 23 April).

The webinar webpage with the program will be launched early May. Look out for the next announcement in May.

International Finance Corporation (IFC) are looking for names and CVs of fish passage experts with relevant experience for hydropower projects in Africa who can advise on design of mitigation for migratory fishIf you have experience in assessing impacts of dams and designing mitigation for potamodromous migrants, fishway design, telemetry or any other experience. Please send your CV to Kerry Brink (kerry@reachingrivers.com, including which countries you have experience in.

A new MSc position is available at University of KwaZulu-Natal - Monitoring the efficiency of the Thukela Fishway and environmental performance of the facility (South Africa). You can read more by following this link https://riversoflife.co.za/2021/04/12/msc-thukela-fishway/ .

The University of KwaZulu-Natal are working on a global African review for fish movement and migration. For that, the researchers need to find all relevant literature in any language for continental Africa. If you have any papers, theses, reports, or any grey literature relevant to fish movement and migration in Africa, please send to Dr Céline Hanzen at info@riversoflife.co.za

Swimway Africa is  on Facebook , Twitter and Youtube. Look out for the new 10-part Youtube series, where we are interviewing experts across Africa. Check out the latest interview with Robin Petersen regarding the dam removals in the Kruger Park. https://youtu.be/5JqKvfx7PQo

Mid-Vaal report by Chris Williams

After the rains and dam water releases, with the stable sunny weather the Vaal/Orange system has generally cleared well. Large and strong SM yellows are feeding voraciously and are bulking up before winter and their movement into deeper water. 

The DWS has issued a statement saying they are aware of the sewage pollution problems in the Mid-Vaal hotspot. They are planning to sub-contract to 18 companies to unblock pipes and at some stage to repair/renew pump stations and waste-water treatment plants. Back to Square One - lots of talk and promises and little action. SAVE is progressing its court cases against offending municipalities, local and provincial governments. 

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has just granted an Environmental Authorisation to Seriti Coal for the Metsimaholo mining project expansion to go ahead between Denysville and Parys. This is bad news and we along with other interested/affected parties will be lodging protest against this additional mid-Vaal River pollution threat.

Progress of yellowfish research by the Rivers of Life Programme of the University of Mpumalanga (www.riversoflife.co.za) by Gordon O’Brien

Our programme is now located in the lowveld at the University of Mpumalanga, but we still have an office with researchers in KwaZulu-Natal at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.  Our yellowfish research at the moment is restricted to these regions. We have just completed a project on the behavioural ecology of the largescale yellowfish in the Olifants River (Kruger National Park) and were initiating a telemetry project on the Sabie River. In the coming years we will have behavioural data and knowledge on how largescale yellowfish respond to multiple stressors. Some important initial outcomes include new information on how vulnerable these yellowfish are to rapidly increasing flows and in particular how dangerous it is to change flows too frequently in our rivers. The yellowfish seem to know that something is coming, but not what it is so if flow change too suddenly their “normal” behaviour is disrupted and they don’t eat and utilize habitats as they should. We have published some of this information and hope this contributes to how we release flows into our rivers. Unfortunately, we have been surprised with some new distributions of fishes in the lowveld, but disappointed that it’s becoming harder and harder to find larger individuals of largescale, smallscale and scalies (Natal yellowfish) in KZN. Our rivers are facing a plethora of stressors and these populations are being depleted over time.  Our recent good rains, some of which we haven’t seen in many years has already seemed to have been beneficial to our region’s yellowfish. We are finding good recruitment and will continue to monitor how population structures change following the good rains. Our other work with yellowfish (and other large growing Cyprinids) in the region includes the extraction of otoliths from individuals and some isotopic evaluations of minerals across these extracted otoliths. This data is going to give us a picture of the life histories of our yellowfish and their migratory activities throughout their lives.  We’re hoping to get proof of their migrations, how often they migrate and migratory routes, watch this space! Finally, we have initiated some work on yellowfish populations in dams in the lowveld and in KZN. Dr. Matthew Burnett is working on the effects of the 2019 fishkill in the uMsunduze and populations in dams in the uMgeni catchment and in Mpumalanga were looking at yellowfish and other species in Driekoppies Dam. Currently most of this work is being undertaken as a part of larger/regional projects but our yellows are some of the beneficiaries!  We will have more information later in the year!

Kind regards,