Addo MPA… how does it really affect us as recreational fisherfolk?

We all are aware that as of the 23rd of May South Africa officially declared 20 new Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s), yip it has been gazetted! This means that currently we have 41 protected areas along our South African coastline. MPA’s play a critical role in protecting our natural resources by limiting human activity within these “reserves”. However, the introduction of the new MPA has left many a fisherfolk wondering if and how this will affect them? 

Most of us living in the Eastern Cape, particularly Port Elizabeth and its surrounds frequent Sunday’s and van der Riets for fishing expeditions. Whilst there has been lots of rumours around what the new regulations will entail, all gossip has been put to an end as the Gazette gives a detailed breakdown of how the Addo MPA has been zoned and what activities are restricted in each of those particular areas. However, lets be honest not all of us understand all the political/scientific jargon which is why we had a chat to Dr Ané Oosthuizen regarding the new regulations and how they will affect local recreational fisherfolk. This is what she had to say…

Hi Ané, tell us a bit about yourself and how you were involved in the project? Hi Chénelle, I work for South African National Parks, and have been part of the Planning of the Addo ENP MPA since 2006.

All fishing is completely prohibited in all restricted zones? Shore based fishing, around the Sundays area, has therefore been restricted to between point I and K? And further up the coast from L onwards? Yes, all fishing is prohibited in all restricted zones. However the zonation of the MPA allows for recreational, commercial and subsistence fishing in several controlled zones. Shore fishing around Sundays can take place between I and K, on both sides of the mouth. Then again from L at Woody cape to A at Cannon Rocks

There were rumours that fishing was going to be closed within and on either side of the Sundays river mouth, has this happened? No, the proposed closure after the mouth was not done after consultation with stakeholders.

If fishing from a boat, this can only take place within the SOCZ, as well as within the estuary, up until the SERZ? Where exactly does the SERZ begin? The SERZ begins at the end of Ingelside, were the Koppies comes down to meet the river, and the GPS coordinate for point S will give the exact position. Fishing from a boat can also take place in the CROICZ on the Cannon rocks side of the MPA.

Can drones be used in the park? Within the shore controlled zones how far seaward does the boundary extend? It is important to remember that drones are excluded from National Parks, but not the MPA. This will make the use of drones tricky in the areas where the MPA borders the National Park. Please be well informed of the boundaries, and if unsure please check with the Park. The boundary for fishing from shore is 200m from the highwater mark.

Should someone witness illegal fishing activity within the park, to whom would one report it? Who will be policing the area?  The regulations for all the new MPAs comes into effect from 1 August, and SANParks would appreciate the support of the community in being the eyes and ears on the ground. Please contact Addo Elephant National Park directly, and we will have a 24h line operational from August.

A special thanks to Ané, who took the time to help clarify the confusion regarding this MPA. And a huge congratulations on being part of such a conservation “win”!

The Addo MPA Gazette is also available for download at the following link (Document numbers 42478 23-5 EnvironAff and 42479 23-5 EnvironAff) . Should you have any additional queries, please do not hesitate to send them through to us and we will do our best to get them back to you!

Recreational “raggie ban”…

The recent listing of the spotted ragged-tooth shark as a vulnerable species, by the Department of Environmental Affairs, caused a significant amount of confusion and frustration, especially after the classification of Hammerhead sharks as prohibited species (as stated by the Marine Recreational Activity Information Brochure 2016/2017) only a few months prior. The release of the Government Gazette, which stated that the “catching and capturing” or “hunting and killing” of the much loved spotted ragged-tooth shark was from now on, prohibited. This resulted in a large number of recreational anglers questioning the new regulations regarding the species. Anglers from all over the country flocked to social media and popular forums to vent their frustrations, question the regulations and debate over the topic. However in the calm of the storm it still remains unclear to many how this is going to effect recreational fishing in South Africa, particularly those that compete on a provincial and national level, if it is to have any effect at all. A recent statement from SASAA has indicated that as for now the catching of raggies will be allowed for all SASAA competitions.

Not too shabby for a first raggie. Caught at Sunday’s, Eastern Cape.

A bit of background information on the species:

The spotted ragged-tooth shark (Carcharias taurus), affectionately known as the “raggie” in South African waters, is also known as the grey nurse shark or sand tiger shark. The species is relatively well distributed, occurring in most subtropical and warm temperate oceans on the globe (other than the Eastern Pacific). Raggies are considered to have a relatively slow growth rate (something we noticed on a recent recapture – in which said female raggie grew a total of 370mm in the 1643 between the tag and recapture events. Just to put things into perspective thats a grand total of 1.6mm per week!!). Males can reach sexual maturity between 6 /7 years of age (which equates to a total length of roughly 190cm in size) and females at 9/10 years of age (approx. 220cm total length).

C. taurus is ovoviviparous, meaning that the eggs hatch within the body and the juveniles remain in the uterus until fully developed. However, high levels of intrauterine cannabilism, during their approx. 9 month gestation period, results in only one or two pups per litter – yip, survival of the fittest begins before they have even entered into the big, bad world! Females are thought to only give birth to young once every two years.

Distribution of the spotted ragged tooth shark, C. taurus. (Map source: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/fish/discover/species-profiles/carcharias-taurus/)

The social and economic use and value of ragged-tooth sharks is seen to diversify throughout the distribution. In South Africa, raggies are an important species for recreational anglers. They are also sometimes landed as by-catch by commercial fishing vessels.

Why they need our help?

In order to protect the species it is important to recognise that the life history characteristics (e.g. low number of offspring, sexual maturity at > 5 years of age, do not breed annually) of ragged tooth sharks make the species easily susceptible to a rapid population decline. Interestingly, the Australian Government was the first to recognise the threat the species faced and as such it was declared the worlds first protected shark species, in 1984 (thats nearly half a decade before South Africa initiated conservation efforts on the iconic Great White shark!!). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently recognises C. taurus as vulnerable.

How can we make a difference?

As a recreational angler it is crucial for us to all realise the role we play in conserving our stocks. Probably one of the most important things when actively targeting sharks is to make use of adequate tackle – a minimum of 50lb braid or .55 nylon. It is possible to land a substantial raggie on light tackle but it is not ideal for the fish. The less stress on the fish, the higher the chance of a successful release. We can never emphasise too much the importance of being ready with a pliers and camera before the fish hits the beach. The unhooking, photographing and releasing of the fish should ideally not take longer than 1 minute.

As with any species, a large amount of energy is expended during the fight, ensure that fish are released in an adequate depth of water giving him/her the best swim off possible. Rolling around in the shallows adds unnecessary extra stress. Once released, keep an eye on your fish to make sure that they have made it over the lip and into the deep.

Protea angler, Gerhard Guse, with a “black bag” caught in Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape.

Their rough skin and sharp teeth means that sharks are often viewed as being a lot tougher HOWEVER they need, and deserve, to be treated with as much respect and care as smaller edibles.

Sources and additional reading:

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009-2.RLTS.T3854A10132481.en.

Pollard, D.A., M.P. Lincoln-Smith & A.K. Smith (1996). The biology and conservation of the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus Rafinesque 1810) in New South Wales, Australia. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.