New octopus fishing rules imposed to save Cape Town's whales

The temporary suspension of the exploratory octopus fishery in False Bay will be lifted from November 15, following consultations over whales getting caught in the nets, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy said on Friday. 

The department temporarily banned the exploratory octopus fishery on June 28 over entanglements and mortalities of whales in the fishing gear. 

The department said it had consulted widely in the scientific and fishing community, as well as with two universities. 

The lifting of the temporary suspension is subject to the immediate implementation of mitigation measures. 

These are:   

  • - The bottom line should consist entirely of sinking ropes;
  • - The chain on the buoy line must be moved from the top of the line to the bottom;
  • - There must be sheathing of the top 2m of the buoy line, with PVC piping or tubing;
  • - The buoy must be mounted on the bottom with timed released mechanisms;
  • - The working group recommended that if, within three months, there are two or more entanglements of southern right or humpback whales, the fishery should be halted;
  • - If there was at least one entanglement of the bryde's whale, the fishery should be halted; 
  • - Should there be at least one mortality of any of these whales, the fishery should be closed. 

The conditions will be introduced incrementally in other areas of the octopus fishery. 

The department is looking at introducing mitigation measures on other fishing gear that has resulted in whale entanglements or mortalities.

"It is imperative that this fishery and all the parties involved do everything possible to ensure, not only the success of the fishery, but also the wellbeing of the environment in which the fishery operates," said Creecy.

- Compiled by Jenni Evans