Flyfishers tangle with Molewa over trout

The Federation of Southern African Flyfishers (Fosaf) is planning to tackle Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa in court after she listed trout as an invasive species.

In a statement on Wednesday, the federation said it had no choice but to head to court following the minister's latest proposed amendments to the Alien Invasive Species Lists and regulations.

"It has done so as a last resort after years of attempts to negotiate a lawful and sustainable basis for regulating South Africa’s trout fishery were rejected by DEA," Fosaf said. 

Adding trout to this list meant it would be a criminal offence to maintain the existing trout fishery or to operate the present 1 800-ton-per-annum trout farming sector. Billions of rands in investment and jobs would be destroyed overnight, the federation argues.  

"The DEA has reneged on the compromise agreement that was reached at the Phakisa Ocean labs conference in July 2014 and is now intent on listing trout and a number of other economically useful species as invasive, without first telling the public why this is necessary."

The federation said they would be disputing the lawfulness of Molewa's proposal in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, 1998 (NEMBA). 

They would also seek an order setting aside the notices inviting public comment or objection on these proposed changes that were published in February 2018, as well as the various correction notices that were published subsequently, because they did not comply with the requirements laid down in section 100 of NEMBA. 

"Fosaf maintains that these notices are fatally and materially defective because the minister failed to properly advertise the notices, failed to adhere to the prescribed time limits and, most importantly, failed to provide sufficient information to enable members of the public to submit meaningful representations or objections."

The federation explained that the effects of placing trout on the invasive species list would have catastrophic consequences for recreational trout angling, as well as for fresh water aquaculture.

"Both drive large downstream value chains that employ thousands of people and generate over a billion rand in annual revenue largely in rural areas where opportunity for decent work is limited."

Under NEMBA, a listed invasive species must, as a general rule, be eradicated or prevented from growing or spreading. Where this is not possible, permits to farm and utilise invasive species or to introduce them into the wild are not easily obtained, said Fosaf.

Molewa's spokesperson Albi Modise declined to comment on the application, as it is now before the courts.