Depleting bait fish supplies causing collapse of food chain

REEF fish, if fished out, cannot be resupplied as they are territorial by nature.

At night their bait “capenta” is collected by net and a strong light which lures the bait into the zone of the light where they are easily netted in large quantities.

If the bait fish are depleted, the predators are affected directly. This rapid destruction of the food chain will result in the complete collapse of this system.

I received an e-mail about an angler who caught a monster cob at Gamtoos surf recently. This magnificent fish must be in the region of 70kg.

Unfortunately these monster cob are not easily released and are not good eating either. It seems such a shame. Fish like this need processing and the temptation to target these giants for financial gain is a huge problem – especially at Gamtoos which seems to be the home of this species.

A fish of this magnitude is approximately 70 years old, too. The otoliths of the fish have been studies recently under electron microscopes where the “annual rings” have been counted to assess the age. The chemical composition has also been studied.

From this and compared with the “chemical signature” each river has, it can be determined where these monsters have dwelled.

Other technology in the form of telemetry has also been used to track the cob along the coast and estuaries of the East Cape. It is not uncommon for cob to go to sea and visit other estuaries and eventually return to the river where they spent their juvenile years.

I was privileged to receive information about a Cape vulture that was released on my brother’s farm in the Burgersdorp district with a satellite tracking device.

I was amazed to see the territory these birds covered daily. These movements are much the same as our fish. But, unfortunately, the observations of migration of fish is restricted to specimens caught that have been tagged or had telemetric transponders surgically fitted.

The information captured is often lost by anglers who are ill-informed or those who believe the passing on of information will ultimately be to their detriment in years to come through restrictions put in place as a result. It is so that we are really going nowhere slowly.

We need to know how to manage our future stocks through the gathering of sound scientific data that can steer decision makers to make accurate assessments that are not emotionally motivated.

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