YWG November 2022 newsletter

Dear YWG supporter,

Apologies for the months of silence but news has been hard to come by and there have been other pressing issues to attend to.

In the meantime, here is a news update.


Saving the Sandfish Project.

A Saving Sandfish Project Update report  was received from Dr Jeremy Shelton of the the Freshwater Research Centre (www.frcsa.org.za) and may be viewed by clicking here. What it tells us is that over 15 000 sandfish fingerlings from the Biedouw River have been placed in sanctuary dams in the Cederberg where they have grown out to 15 – 20cm. At this size they are less likely to be taken by predators such as bass. About 10% of these young fish have been tagged and placed in the Doring River in September 2021 and 77 of these tagged fish have already retuned with the wild fish migration to the spawning beds of the Biedouw in September this year. Obviously, this number will increase significantly as the project continues thus boosting the wild fish population. This extremely successful project will serve as an excellent model for extending the reintroduction of sandfish to waters where they have disappeared or the wildfish population has declined but also for other Western Cape native fishes which are facing extinction.

The Yellowfish Coalition.

In August Dr Gordon O’Brien organized a virtual meeting of aquatic scientists and other interested parties to discuss the status of yellowfish in the country and plan a way forward.  This was deemed necessary as the YWG ceased to hold annual conferences after 2015. Some worthwhile information was exchanged at this virtual meeting, and concern was expressed about the marked decline of populations in certain river systems. In the meantime, there have been several discussions with interested parties recently and it was proposed that we need to know exactly what is required by yellows to protect these various populations and how do we include these requirements in existing legislation. Gordon will now prepare a plan but realises that he simply does not have time to take sole responsibility for this new interest group and hopes to place the coalition activities under SANBI. Gordon may be contacted at Gordon.Obrien@ump.ac.za.

The Vaal River pollution crisis by Chris Williams.

The extensive seasonal heavy rains have led to the Vaal Dam and Barrage gates being fully opened. This has resulted in severe torrents and floods downstream. As a result, a lot of recently deposited fish spawn has been washed downriver.

Further to our last report, the programme on the biological eradication of invasive toxic aquatic plants is well under way. It has been hampered by fast and high water which has spread downstream the three problem plants, water hyacinth, water lettuce and Salvinia species.

Together with SAVE and other allies continue our moral and legal crusade against raw sewage and plastic pollution, corruption and dysfunction of municipal and government bodies abusing the South African public’s funds. We will have both hearing and trial dates early in 2023. We will keep you fully informed of progress.

After a good start in early October prior to the onset of the heavy rain the yellowfishing will now be slow until both river clarity and flow return to some level of normality for both the fish and for us fly fishers.

Vanderkloof Dam

The Northern Cape government has still to take a decision on whether to proceed with a small-scale fishery based on the results of the research project. This is probably because they must take into consideration the new Freshwater (Inland) Wild Capture Fisheries Policy. As we have mentioned before previous studies have shown that our South African dams do not lend themselves to commercial fisheries and marketing of the catch is often a problem. We therefore have reservations about the long-term viability of such a fishery, even on a small scale. At the same time, we note that there are still claims being made that the research project at VDK was terminated due to objections raised by a certain group. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, gratuitous attacks on the project triggered resentment amongst poor communities who felt that an elite group of anglers were trying to prevent them from having access to a state resource.

 Kind regards,