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Confusion as fishing resumes across South Africa

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Anglers in South Africa are being advised to take a copy of the latest regulations on fishing with them onto the water.

All fishing in South Africa, with the exception of charter fishing, is now allowed, following a statement by the country’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF).

The easing of restrictions comes as South Africa’s High Court declared the country’s COVID-19 lockdown measures as a violation of the constitution and therefore invalid.

However, the relaxation of rules has caused some confusion, with at least one kayak angler coming off the sea being stopped by police and censured for being on the beach.

And in spite of the announcement, the South African Kayak Fishing Association wrote to all kayak anglers recommending they do not go to sea or fish until further communication is received.

One of the Level 3 Lockdown regulations stating that beaches and public parks are closed to the public contradicts the announcement by Fisheries Minister, Barbara Creecy, that marine and freshwater fishing are allowed.

Initially, recreational fishing, which is associated with key downstream industries such as tourism, bait and tackle, as well as boat construction and maintenance, was banned under the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Following the High Court ruling, the Government has been directed to ‘review, amend and re-publish’ the regulations with due consideration to the limitation each regulation has on the rights guaranteed in the Bill Of Rights contained in the Constitution.

But the ruling could have some ‘unintended and most unwelcome consequences’ on the fishing industry and recreational fishing in particular, according to the South African Consolidated Recreational Angling Association (SACRAA).

“It would appear that the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ statement regarding fishing and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) notice regarding recreational boating are not going to be gazetted any time soon, at least not until the 14 days granted by the court for the Minister to redraft the regulations have passed,” SACRAA said.

Minister Creecy said that despite the loosening of the COVID-19-related restrictions on the fishing industry, fishers must ensure that they have a valid fishing permit, observe all regulations relating to social distancing, health protocols, movement and the prohibition of groups and gatherings.

Anglers are also advised to take a copy of the regulations with them to show enforcement officers who are not up to date with the latest developments.

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