THE Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Club (FHSLC) is dismayed by the delay in the trial shark exclusion net for the beach, which was to have been deployed next month.
An exclusion net is a small, meshed net designed to act as a shark barrier. Unlike shark nets, it is not intended to trap or kill sharks. (“Net proposal up for debate, People’s Post, 5 March).
A FHSLC representative says trek net fishermen are “holding out for compensation”, adding the amount requested for the initial year is between R300000 and R500000.
But the City’s head of environmental policy and strategy, Gregg Oelofse, says: “It would be unfortunate to suggest the net is being held up by the trek netters.”
A spokesperson for the club, who asked not to be named, says: “January will be too late.”
October is the ideal time for the net’s deployment because it is the official start of the season, shark numbers increase and the South-Easterly wind picks up. Strong winds may affect the net and for the trial wind is necessary, he says.
The club says the recruitment of new members has drastically declined following two fatal shark attacks in Fish Hoek since 2004.
While the club does not believe the net will impact on the ability of the fishermen to catch fish, rights holder Abduraghmaan Rykliff disagrees.
Rykliff says: “I am not willing to risk the livelihood of my crew on what they think the net is going to do.”
He points out the net is experimental and its impact is not known.
“We have been here for 70 years. They want to make out we are holding them to ransom, but we are willing to work with them,” Rykliff adds.
According to the club, the net is unlikely to scare away the fish, but Timothy Atkins, a trek net fish spotter who sits on the mountain believes the net will “definitely be a problem”.
Atkins, who has been a spotter on the mountain for over 30 years, says he has insight into both shark and fish behaviour. He maintains the net will scare the fish, especially schools of valuable yellowtail.
Atkins says the trek netters are already negatively impacted when recreational paddle skiers move through schools of fish they are patiently trying to catch. Even the shark shield buoys used by the club, Atkins says, have got in their way in the past.
The club’s representative says the club only swim trains in the sea on rare days when conditions for spotting sharks are perfect.
He believes the net is essential to save the club, which have been the National Lifesaving Champions for four years in a row.
Oelofse says the main reason for the delay is that the design was adjusted and a formal Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) permit is still outstanding.
Internal administration procedures within the City are also still in process, he says.
Oelofse adds that the rights of the trek net fishermen are entrenched by the Marine Living Resources Act.
Oelofse says they are unsure of how the net will affect the 23 people whose livelihoods depend on the trek and how best to manage this.
One option is to make use of the trek net crew for the deployment and retrieval of the net.
The beach is a space we all use and enjoy,” says Oelofse, adding he is confident a reasonable compromise will be found.
He says he has a “very positive working relationship” with Rykliff.
Oelofse adds the City, Daff and the trek netters are in formal negotiations, which, he says, are the “appropriate forum”.
“We need to find a reasonable compromise. A solution has been tabled and we are busy finalising the terms,” he says.
The 285m net will stretch from Jager’s Walk to the Law Enforcement offices on the beach.