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Seine netter feud: I won’t go

“This whole campaign to get rid of us is being driven by a small group of people who are polluting the air with their backwards view. This is supposed to be the rainbow nation, but there are still some people who feel that this area must be exclusive to them. My grandfather fished like this, my father after him and now me,” he said.

Subramanian claimed the issue only arose when plans were afoot to develop the Vetch’s Beach area.

“Now that big money is being pumped here they want me gone. I am going nowhere.”

Johnny Vassilaros, chairman of the Durban Paddle Ski Club who has been at the forefront of the dispute with seine netters, said the issue was about the “rape” of the sea.

He said his club would raise these issues on Wednesday and would call for a total ban on seine netting. Vassilaros described the practice as antiquated, saying it was harmful to South Africa’s dwindling fish stock.

“Every fishery in South Africa, whether it is commercial or recreational, has had restrictions placed on them over the years to protect our marine stocks – except this industry.

“This industry, however, has been allowed to go on without restrictions for 150 years. It is the most destructive and most indiscriminate form of fishing,” he said. “It seems as if (Ezemvelo) is turning a blind eye. We are restricted to catch four shad per person and they all have to be a certain size – which we are happy with. But every day we see scores of shad and undersized fish getting dragged on the beach. This cannot go unchallenged.”

Durban Seine Netters have been operating on a historic licence and can trace their business to when the first indentured labourers arrived.

According to their permits, they are only allowed to fish from the South Pier to the uMngeni River mouth. Last year, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries closed loopholes, forcing them to fish from 4.30am to 6pm in summer and from 6am to 6pm in winter.

They were also prohibited from catching 38 species of fish, such as shad, blacktail, garrick, kingfish and grunter. The seine netters were also stopped from using motorboats or going out at night.

In a recent letter to the recreational fishermen, Ken Morty, Ezemvelo’s biodiversity conservation co-ordinator, said the seine netters’ permit allowed them to catch all the species on the exploitable, protected and bait lists. He said while size limits are applicable, there are no number limits.

“The conditions include: no night netting allowed, no use of motorised boat, any species which they are not allowed to capture or sell must be released or declared to Ezemvelo; and Ezemvelo staff have to be contacted prior to netting activities taking place,” he said.

Morty said the fishermen’s claims of “wholesale slaughter” and that authorities were turning “a blind eye” to these activities only stirred up the emotions of concerned people who do not have a opportunity to be apprised of all the facts.

Subramanian said he did not buy the assertion that they plundered the sea. He claimed race was an issue. “It seems to me that some people don’t like Indians to operate here.”

Vassilaros denied that the campaign against the seine netters was a racial one, saying there were many Indian fishermen who wanted netting stopped.

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Tuesday the 2nd.
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