Gill-netters are monsters of the deep

BENJAMIN Franklin once said: “Nothing in life is certain, only death and taxes.”

Well this certainly applies to our passion in angling. I think we are already paying those taxes!

Our whales are dying of starvation because of over fishing in the high seas. The penguin and seal populations are down in the Bay and prospects of recovery seem bleak.

The competition for food has become a frenzy with all sea life in competition with man for survival. In many a case in competition with economic ambition by those that fish only for today.

Gillnetting or “stake netting”, be it what it is by definition, remains a worldwide curse and is totally unsustainable. It is indiscriminate and mass destructive. Recently two huge nets were removed from the upper reaches of the Swartkops River. Each was more than 70m long. These nets were removed after tip-offs that there was suspicious activity in the area.

An investigation was launched and these nets seized, on two separate occasions. Sadly no arrests were made.

The term gillnet is used for a net device that catches fish by snaring it by the gills and keeping it there much like a spider’s web. A stake net on the other hand is a net that is used to camp off a water way and later forming a “kraal” where the fish are herded to be dragged up on to the river bank where the collection of these fish is done on dry land.

These nets are hand crafted and many hours are required to make a net of the magnitude of these recovered. The flotation for the net is foam rubber of the common “slip slop” we all wear.

The weight system is that of stones from the area and these are secured by rubber bands cut from a bicycle tube or black rubbish bag plastic to anchor the net to the river bed. The height of the net is approximately one and a half to two metres and as long as is required to stretch across the water way that they target.

These nets are set at low tide and are almost undetectable when the water has begun to push up river. These nets are usually set just before dark and removed later under the cover of darkness.

The stones are easily detached from the nets making the net considerably easier to handle when retrieved. The tell-tale signs after the fact are these piles of stones left behind.

These perpetrators are extremely cunning, well trained and operate with stealth. Apprehending these monsters requires time, patience and sophisticated equipment often not at the disposal of those volunteers who monitor and patrol for this scandalous practice. In the past four years, approximately 60 nets have been removed from the Swartkops alone. This problem is not unique to the Swartkops.

GOOD catches have been recorded of late and it seems cob are in abundance both in the surf and in the estuaries. These fish are healthy looking and can, unfortunately, be easily exploited.

The catch of the period must certainly be this net removed by HMCO’s Ray Marsh and Alan Withers. You will notice, in the photograph, the length of this device of mass destruction!

wlrudman@mweb.co.za

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