In search of our coast guard

NOT so long ago, while waiting to be deployed on an anti-poaching operation, a colleague said: “a poacher is society’s good example of a bad example”.

This could not have been said better. The plundering will only end when our natural resources are depleted.

When one resource has been destroyed, the cycle will carry on when focus shifts to another resource, and the loop of decimation continues.

I wonder what will happen when the rhino (God forbid) becomes extinct?

Over the years I have spoken to many a man who fished when restrictions were not thought of or few limitations were in place.

The Port Elizabeth breakwater wall was one of the popular spots where many species, like katonkel, were caught in abundance.

Today, we talk about these species, however, they are now seldom caught even at sea.

Sardinia Bay was another popular weekend destination, which was proclaimed a nature reserve to prevent the total clean-out of the resident territorial species there.

Deep-sea was a popular weekend activity after which anglers came home with baskets containing fish, and so the memories were shared and stories told. Today, we witness starving penguins that need special care to protect them from total wipe-out.

Recently, I had a call from a “chokka” boat skipper who told me they are really worried about their future at sea.

I am told that the squid are still carrying eggs in November, when the season has opened.

Traditionally, the squid season is closed from mid-October to mid-November – the exact dates are published in the Government Gazette a few weeks prior to the commencement of the closed season. These published dates do not run like the annual closed season certain fish species have.

This tells me there are changes to natural patterns and that things should be reassessed.

When the climate changes, animals are the first to adapt.

Fish go on the bite just before a cold front comes through.

Buck take shelter in the bush or nearby mountains.

Animals plan ahead, without the sophisticated equipment man has at his disposal.

Yet, with all this, we often manage our environment at snail’s pace, to its detriment.

Nelson Mandela Bay, or Algoa Bay, as it was known back in the day, is a popular deep-sea destination, with the Rhy Banks not far from the harbour and the Thunderbolt Reef off the point of Cape Recife.

Fish such as Cape salmon and yellowtail are the target species, which mostly feed off sardines that are becoming increasingly scarce. These sardines are crucial to the overall wellbeing of the Bay in the long term.

The sardines are also important to the Bay’s birdlife which is in abundance.

We have also witnessed a decline in tuna off our coast, which is a direct result of foreign fishing vessels operating, mostly unregulated, off our shore.

I look at the US Coast Guard, which is multifaceted, but in South Africa we need four different departments, pulling in different directions, to attempt to achieve similar results.

It seems an awful waste of money, time and manpower.

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