FOSAF NEWS - NEM:BA - Latest on Trout zoning

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At the latest national workshop on trout distribution held in Pietermaritzburg in January delegates applauded the presentation of Fosaf's position based on zoning whilst balancing the interests of biodiversity with those of the stakeholders,including the trout and trout tourism industry and flyfishers at large. It appears that Fosaf's sensible, practical approach to zoning has gained wide acceptance.

1. INTRODUCTION

This national workshop was organized by the SA National Biodiversity Institute ("SANBI") which is assisting the Department of Environmental Affairs ("DEAT") to develop the regulations and lists for alien and invasive species ("AIS") of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act ("NEM:BA"). The Convenor of the workshop was Ms Ingrid Nanni of SANBI, the Facilitator was Ms Marlene Laros, and discussions on mapping were lead by Dr Ernst Swartz of the SA Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity ("SAIAB"), the coordinator of the mapping exercise. Dr J Donaldson who is the overall coordinator of this project for SANBI was unable to attend, and sent his apologies. No representative of DEAT attended, and no apologies from that organization were tendered.

There was relatively good representation of the nature conservation organizations, including those of the Western and Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga Provinces. Their attendance was significant as implementation of these regulations, when promulgated, will lie with the provinces. Unfortunately, there was no representative from the Free State. Some fifty stakeholders were present (from NGOs other than FOSAF such as Aquaculture Association of SA ("AASA"), the Eastern Cape Fly-fishers, Trout Action Group, Wildlife and Environment Society of SA ("WESSA"), several trout breeders, facility and hospitality owners, representatives of municipalities and the media). FOSAF was represented by the National Chairman, Ilan Lax ("IL"), Jake Alletson ("JA") and Bill Bainbridge ("WRB") of the FOSAF Environmental Committee.

2. PURPOSE OF THE WORKSHOP

The purpose of the workshop was given by SANBI as the following.

" … to develop/discuss maps for the current distribution of trout in South Africa and to determine how the mapping of demarcated zones could be used as part of the regulations. The intention is only to regulate trout in those areas where there is concern about the impact of trout on biodiversity or ecosystem function (i.e. outside the demarcated zones). In order to do this, we need to know which areas are of conservation concern and how best to map demarcated zones for trout in a way that makes sense in the regulations. The purpose of mapping demarcated zones is to benefit the trout industry. The idea is to reduce or eliminate regulation of trout in those areas where this would have the minimal consequences for biodiversity."

It will be evident from the above that FOSAF's approach, based on zoning and balancing the interests of biodiversity with those of stakeholders has gained wide acceptance.

3. EXPECTED OUTCOMES

The outcomes expected from the workshop were the following.

" … a) communication of the mapping process, b) an improved understanding of the scientific basis for delineation of zones, c) specific recommendations regarding trout species, and d) identification of problem areas that may require further consultation."

4. PRESENTATIONS

Ingrid Nanni gave an introductory presentation on the process thus far. Dr Swartz then gave the main presentation, outlining his views on the guiding principles and criteria for the mapping exercise, and the procedure to be followed in preparing the maps. The mapping will be coordinated by SAIAB, and undertaken by the provinces, with stakeholder participation. It will be important to ensure stakeholder scrutiny and consensus of the final maps. Concerns were expressed about the process and opportunities for objecting to the final maps and whether the maps would be used (unfairly) to prevent the permitting of current and the establishment and new fisheries outside the demarcated areas.

The FOSAF presentation was given by JA and WRB. This was based on our adopted position papers and policies, and it included a call for a principled, ethical approach, and for the regulations to be uncomplicated, practical cost-effective and easy to implement. JA presented the draft FOSAF zoning feasibility model in map form (which uses KZN as a test case), as approved by EXCO and submitted to DEAT in May of 2008, but which has been refined by further work and the inclusion of information on identified opportunity cost implications.

Mr Martin Fick gave a presentation on behalf of the EC Fly-Fishers and the Trout Action Group. Mr Etienne Hinrichsen gave a presentation on behalf of the trout breeders and AASA. The E Cape ECCF/TAG presentation, in contrast to that of FOSAF, proposed that trout sites be demarcated by GPS points (co-ordinates), and emphasis given to the delineation of biodiversity sensitive areas, from which trout would be excluded. This approach is premised on concerns that the demarcated areas will be used to limit the extent to which restricted activities will be permitted outside the delineated trout waters. (Please see section 5.7 below).

The AASA presentation recommended an approach similar to this, and emphasized the need for minimum restrictions on the industry.

5. SUMMARY OF THE OUTCOMES OF THE WORKSHOP

5.1 A number of the participants voiced their dissatisfaction at the manner in which DEAT have failed to manage the process properly as well as their mistrust of the process itself. Of fundamental significance was the serious concern at the lack of information about the administrative provisions relating to implementation of the proposed framework. DEAT's presence would have at least provided some information to address this. Even the scientists and provincial nature conservation representatives present seem not to have confidence in the eventual implementation modalities. There is also doubt that DEAT will be in a position to adequately fund the mapping process. The workshop was informed that Treasury has been approached by DEAT for funding for the entire mandate flowing from the legislation which includes mapping and implementation of the framework. However, there was no information on the amount that has been requested or the likelihood that the funding will be provided.

5.2 Another misgiving is that the process is being managed by research academics, who though well qualified, appear to lack practical experience, and the process appears consequently to be markedly theoretical and unduly complicated in approach. In addition, it was suggested that some of the DEAT staff who were handling the matter were inexperienced and had a poor grasp of what is happening and what is required to make the draft regulations practical and easily implementable.

5.3 The ECCF/TAG position paper raised the concern that once the demarcated trout areas have been delineated, no new areas may be established, and that movement between different areas would be restricted. We believe, however, that neither of these perceptions are correct. It is our understanding that some sites (such as spring-fed dams) that will not be included in a larger zone, but which have been stocked by permit for many years and pose no threat to biodiversity, will in future be recognized, and probably delineated as a free-standing or isolated areas. FOSAF's approach categorically does not envisage restrictions on the movement of trout, provided that all facilities and activities have been correctly permitted.

5.4 It was never the intention of the FOSAF proposal to result in prevention of the permitting of sites (such as dams) lying outside recognized demarcated trout areas. Our understanding is that it would be standard procedure for any land-owner to apply for permission to engage in an otherwise restricted activity like stocking such sites, provided normal procedures are observed. This aspect was repeatedly emphasized during the workshop. The intention of the FOSAF proposals has been to discourage or prevent the stocking on new rivers (or stretches thereof).

5.5 In our view, one of the problems with the ECCF/TAG approach which is that while the co-ordinates of individual dams could easily be included in a GIS data base of registered sites, their recommended approach would not readily lend itself to delineating extensive stretches of river that are recognized trout waters, particularly, those of a self-perpetuating nature. We believe that there is the possibility that both these approaches could be combined, with GPS points being used to demarcate small or isolated trout sites, which might lie outside the demarcated trout areas. It will be necessary for this to be discussed and the modalities worked out with all stakeholders, when the mapping exercises are initiated.

5.6 Although this was not openly stated by the nature conservation authority representatives present, it is understood that it is not presently feasible for the nature conservation authorities to map areas of high biodiversity importance, as they have not been able to undertake all the necessary research.

5.7 Debate in the workshop on the approach to take for zoning was, however, cut short. The Convenor stated that DEAT requires that the demarcated trout areas be mapped for publication with the regulations, and so that ordinary stakeholders will be aware of their extent. Consequently, demarcated areas in which trout management will be considered a valid land-use will be delineated with stakeholder involvement. Where known, areas of sensitive biodiversity will be excluded from these zones, as will all protected areas, except where recreational fishing for trout is part of the management objectives. Revision of the demarcated trout area boundaries will be undertaken on a periodic basis, as specified in the Act.

5.8 IL played a crucial role in the workshop. In the absence of any of the DEAT officials or legal advisors, full use was made by the Facilitator of his presence, in requesting clarity on a number of legal points (which seemed an abuse of his stakeholder status, but was nevertheless clearly appreciated).

5.9 The FOSAF delegation, felt gratified that the workshop content indicated that all our submissions and lobbying activities had been taken on board and that heed had been taken of our recommendations by the authorities. FOSAF, we gather is regarded as the voice of reason, and this was publicly acknowledged by several of the participants, especially WESSA, Dr Kas Hamman and Dean Impson with regard to our submissions and the draft zoning feasibility exercise.

5.10 It was also notable that no stakeholder spoke on behalf of the anti-trout lobby.

5.11 The way ahead from the present was given as follows:

  • Dr Swartz will liaise with the provincial nature conservation agencies in respect of completing the mapping exercise. Stakeholders are also encouraged to participate by liaising with the provincial nature conservation agencies.
  • The next iteration of the draft regulations is scheduled for publication by approximately the end of February, and the public will be given a month in which to comment.
  • Preparation of the maps is only expected to be completed towards the end of the year (funds permitting!).
5.12 The overall impression is that the workshop was successful in achieving the aims of both SANBI (and presumably DEAT) and of FOSAF. There was a good spirit throughout, except that impatience with and mistrust of DEAT was a continually recurring theme.


Bill Bainbridge
Dr W R Bainbridge,
Chairman,
Environmental
Committee
23.01.09
Ilan Lax
National Chairman
Jake Alletson
Member, Environmental Committee

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