YWG April 2022 Newsletter

Dear YWG supporter,

Herewith the latest news:

 

Saving the Sandfish Project.

We received this report from Dr Jeremy Shelton of the the Freshwater Research Centre (www.frcsa.org.za):

“A survey of tributaries in the Doring River system with historical sandfish records was undertaken in March 2022. The four tributaries surveyed were the Gif River, Kransgat River, Tra-Tra River, and the Matjies River. The other Olifants-Doring tributaries with confirmed sandfish populations are the Oorlogskloof and Biedouw Rivers, which have been recently surveyed by the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve and the Saving Sandfish Project.

Each tributary was surveyed with fyke nets that were set late in the afternoon and removed the next morning. The fish (native and non-native) were identified, counted, measured, and inspected for external parasites. Fin clips and water samples were also collected as part of an environmental DNA study by Mohammed Kajee.

The good news is that sandfish were recorded in all four tributaries. The bad news? Three of the four populations are in very bad shape, with low numbers of fish confined to just a handful of warm, stagnant pools. The good news was the finding of a healthier sandfish population in a remote part of the Matjies river flowing through the heart of the Cederberg Mountains.

The data from these surveys will deepen our understanding of the status of sandfish in the wild and will support better-informed IUCN Red-List assessments in the future.”

For a detailed report by Riaan van der Walt of the Fynbos Fish Trust of these surveys with photos and maps click here..

You will be interested to know that FOSAF/YWG has contributed handsomely to this project over the last 2 years.

The Mining Threat.

Some of you will have already seen the threat posed by a proposed manganese mine in a particularly sensitive site in the Doring River catchment. In addition the press have reported widely on the huge damage done to Mpumalanga’s Wilge River and a summary of this catastrophe is summarized by Ed Herbst which you can read by clicking here.

The notorious WPB Colliery between Belfast and Dullstroom has recently had its water use licence extended despite the fact that we believe that DWS’s own audit shows it to be non-compliant. In addition, they have had their mining permit renewed with no reference to the I&APs who over the years have vigorously opposed the mine and highlighted the contraventions.

Although this mine is within the so-called “trout zone” and the over R200K spent on opposing the mine has been largely raised by the trout industry the decant from the mine does eventually reach the middle and lower Elands River, home to a unique and endangered population of smallscale yellows. To make matters worse there is a new application for a coal mining permit close by in the same catchment.

 

Lowveld branch of the YWG.

The work this branch focuses on is driven by a very enthusiastic Louis Wessels (0824641971 and louis@tunica.co.za). Unfortunately, all the rivers which they are targeting are still in spate but once flows return to normal they will continue their work with guidance from aquatic scientists including Dr Gordon O’Brien. The rivers they are targeting include the Blyde, Elands, Sabie, Crocodile and Assegai. They are particularly grateful that Sappi have given them permission to enter their plantations and ALNET for the donation of netting equipment.

The Vaal River pollution crisis by Chris Williams.

The heavy ongoing downpours render fly fishing largely unsafe and impractical on our beloved Vaal.  It does however encourage the invasive pestilent water lettuce to move further westwards info our prime fishing areas. Rhodes U. and other scientists are working on minimising this alien threat which has already badly affected fish and other aquatic life.

Since the new DWS Minister Mchunu has been appointed, as usual it is all hot air and no action. Nothing has been done to remedy the criminal pollution and sewage which is choking our fish and aquatic life. Anaerobic raw sewage/sludge is now being dumped directly into the mid-Vaal as well as into the Vaal Dam. We as FOSAF/YWG and our SAVE friends are working long hours to get the offending local, municipal and national officials and their departments in court.

It is estimated that in the Vaal Triangle alone about R3 billion is required by Gauteng and R1 billion by Free State to get their treatment and pump machinery back to acceptable operational levels with competent staff. This would then enable World Health Organisation  E.coli, blue and green algae levels to be acceptable to our fish, to the riverine environment and to the 15 million South Africans dependent on the mid-Vaal for water.

We expect the several court orders to be in place early August – only 4 months from now.

We please need your support to get a result to improve our yellowfish habitat and fly-fishing environment. To join please go to http://www.fosaf.org.za/join.php.

The plight of the Vaal was also highlighted in a recent Daily Maverick article. To read it click here.

Kind regards,

Peter