THE government has dismissed claims that it is trying to eradicate trout farming and fishing and destroy a billion- rand industry.
Instead, it is limiting the introduction of the invasive and alien species from finding new waters to the detriment of the existing ecosystem.
This was said by deputy director-general of environmental programmes in the Department of Environmental Affairs, Dr Guy Preston, yesterday.
“Trout are invasive species that must be kept out of areas that they have not invaded, but should be fully exploited in those areas in which they have already invaded,” he said.
The proposed legislation to regulate the trout farming and fishing industry – the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 – has received opposition, with opponents arguing brown and rainbow trout are not invasive and that to list the fish as alien and invasive would destroy the billion-rand industry.
“There is no threat to the continued operations of existing, legal trout industries as a result of the proposed regulations and listing of trout as invasive species,” Preston said.
“Contrary to unsubstantiated and absurd claims that the department is intent on destroying the trout industry and eradicating trout, government agrees that these trout species must be exploited fully within the systems they have already invaded.”
Preston said in part, the regulations would help to put a stop to the introduction of trout to new rivers and dams in catchments in which they did not occur but would not affect continuing farming and fishing of already trout populated waters.
The danger of trout was that the fish were able to out-compete indigenous fish species, and could have an impact on indigenous amphibians [frogs] and invertebrates [for example insects], he said.
“The priority must be the protection of those areas that have not been invaded by fish and fresh-water invertebrates.
“Any possible small-scale reclaiming of tributaries poses no threat whatsoever to aquaculture, and only a marginal impact – if any – for recreational fishers,” he said.
This meant that dams and rivers which were already populated would not be affected by the regulations.
But transport of trout to new waters (in catchments where they did not occur) was prohibited and came with heavy penalties of up to a R10-million fine or jail time. – Denise Williams