Fishermen weigh in on draft Coastal By-law

Fishermen on the False Bay coastline.

False Bay coastline fisherfolk say they will defy coastal rules that force them to be criminals.

They raised their concerns about the City of Cape Town’s draft Coastal By-law at a public participation session with officials at the Mitchell’s Plain sub-council chambers in Lentegeur on Tuesday August 20.

Strandfontein resident and member of the Angling Safety Forum, André Arendse, said: “We don’t want to break the law but if you don’t give us an alternative then we are going to have to.”

He said the by-law affected the fisher folk and other beach users in the most profound way – in how they enjoy the coast.

Mr Arendse specifically mentioned the use of vehicles on the beach and that it was necessary to fish close to one’s vehicle. However, banning of vehicles on beaches forms part of national legislation.

“You are not going to stop the guys from using vehicles on the beach. We fight with law enforcement every day. I’ve got five fines of R2 500 each here. I haven’t paid one and I won’t pay it. I’m going to be defiant because of my and my family’s safety and that’s the bottom line.

“It is not that I want to drive on to the beach but because of circumstances that have changed over the past years with vandalism and criminals taking over. I can’t park more than 20 metres away from where I fish,” he said.

“We hope we are kept in the thoughts of the people who are going to make up these laws. We feel disadvantaged, we’ve always been disadvantaged — we come from a disadvantaged background,” he said.

Mr Arendse said the areas people fish in cannot be restricted and that the by-law may further marginalise fisherfolk as to where and when they can fish.

“We know and accept that there are Marine Recovery Areas (MRA) but the legislation cannot be too prescriptive,”

He also said angling was a non-prescriptive sport, which anyone could do, whenever they liked.

“We fish here at 4am and 12am. We fish anytime. We fish in the rain. We fish in storms, that is what angling is all about,” he said.

Mr Arendse said people who work look forward to being able to fish afterwards. He also pointed out that the by-law allows the City to make decisions at their discretion as to what activities would be allowed on the beach.

He also said they were armed with guns and knives to keep safe from a growing criminal element on the coast.

Fisherman Irefaan Ryland, from Manenberg, said the draft by-law negatively affected the fishing community.

He said according to the draft by-law an authorised official may temporarily prohibit bathing, use of the beach, or other activity in a particular area.

Mr Ryland said they have always collected bait from the Strandfontein tidal pool but now the draft by-law prohibited fishing, which is defined as “searching for, catching, taking or harvesting fish by means including line, net or spear gun or attempting to engage in such an activity”; taking or harvesting fish.

“You guys are trying to restrict us from accessing fishing spots which we have become accustomed to fishing over the years,” he said.

Regular beach cleaner and Rocklands resident, Farouk Davids, applauded the fisherfolk for bringing their experience to the official’s attention in debating the by-law. He also asked that the traditional fishing spots be protected.

“Our ancestors used to fish and this impacts our culture and tradition,” he said.

Mr Davids called on the community to take ownership of the coastline.

He said individuals should be encouraged not to litter and know that it ends up in the stormwater system, and on the beaches, which causes an unhealthy fish and sea life.

Igshaan Carstens, operations director of Strandfontein Agricultural, Aqua Marine and Boating Association, said the by-law tells the community that no matter what you do, “we” the City will come down on you.

He says it does not speak to how the City can be held accountable for sewage being poured into the ocean daily, which is endangering marine organisms, increasing the levels of Escherichia (E) coli, a bacterium in the fish. It is commonly found in the intestines of humans and other animals, some strains of which can cause severe food poisoning.

Mr Carsten asked how the City could be held accountable, to circumvent and improve pollution levels.

Other comments pertained to law enforcement officers having too much power to punish citizens and that those using the beaches correctly should not be harassed.

Bongani Mnisi, head of nature conservation for the City, said every comment will be addressed.

“If you see sections are unclear, then raise a comment or suggest how that certain section must be read.”

Mr Mnisi also asked that the public read the draft by-law with its intention in mind, which is to create safer and cleaner beaches, free from litter and pollution; to protect sea life from poaching, to improve safety on beaches; and to enforce the public’s right to access and enjoy the beaches and sea (“Draft by-law questioned”, Plainsman, August 21).

The proposed by-law addresses poaching, or illegal fishing; harvesting, or removal of vegetation; removal of sand, pebbles, rocks, shells, and kelp; removal of or damage to indigenous coastal vegetation; pollution and dumping; encroachment of private property into the coastal environment; possession or consumption of liquor or drugs; hawking or doing business without authorisation; launching of vessels; and issuing of fines.

The by-law can be viewed online at www.capetown.gov.za/haveyoursay, or at all sub-council offices and libraries across Cape Town.

The public have until Monday September 2 to comment on the draft Coastal By-law.