Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni and thousands of other fly-fishing fans will be forced to hang up their tackle if draft regulations on trout fishing become law.
The proposed legislation could result in brown and rainbow trout being reclassified as an invasive species or even placed on the list of prohibited species.
If this were to happen, the country's multimillion-rand trout industry would collapse, as it would be illegal for anyone to either farm trout or fish for the species, industry players said this week.
Although lawmakers could still decide to exempt the fish from the new government regulations, there is concern that a ban would cripple the aqua-culture sector that produces table fish, including smoked trout fillet and fresh and processed trout, for the annual R45-million local industry.
Tourism in several areas, including the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, eastern Free State, Western Cape and Mpumalanga, rely heavily on trout fishing.
Industry players agreed this week that the regulations, in their present form, would sound the death knell for the country's premier trout region , Dullstroom, as well as several other trout-fishing havens.
One of the sticking points of the draft legislation is that environmental risk assessments, costing between R10000 and R20000 each, would have to be conducted by trout farmers, who would also be required to possess permits.
One of the proposed changes is to keep trout classified as an invasive species meaning anglers would be obliged to kill the fish they caught instead of releasing them, as is common practice.
Trout industry players will meet the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism on August 13, when a decision on the fish's listing is expected.
The regulations, which stem from the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, are being drawn up to control foreign species to prevent or minimise the harm they wreak on the environment.
Trout, originally brought into the country from Loch Leven in Scotland more than a century ago, are considered invasive fish species. But fly-fishing organisations insist that trout co-exist with indigenous fish and cause them no harm.
Sonja Meintjes, deputy director for biodiversity compliance in the Department of Environmental Affairs, said trout industry concerns would be accommodated "in a way that will not harm the environment".
Andre Burger, owner of a fly-fishing shop in Bethlehem, Free State, said his livelihood depended on fishing.
"I will have to close down if trout is declared a prohibited species," he said.
Etienne Hinrichsen, chairman of the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa, said it was calling for trout to be exempted from the regulations
"If trout were having a major biodiversity impact, then we wouldn't really have a leg to stand on but this is not so," he said.This article was by Prega Govender in yesterday's Sunday Times: http://www.thetimes.co.za/PrintEdition/News/Article.aspx?id=814115
This has been a long time coming. It's going to be an interesting environmental story with far-reaching implications to watch unfold. Especially in this part of the world. And considering this country's water 'challenges' (some say crisis), I wonder when the spotlight will fall on golf estates?
(Is the sun setting on fly-fishing? These photos were taken in Waterval-Boven.)