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Fish as a resource in a rural river catchment in the Northern Province, South Africa

BCW van der Waal


The rural population in the Mutshindudi River valley, in the north-eastern corner of the Northern Province, accept locally-caught freshwater fish as food (85%), but tinned pilchards are the most commonly eaten fish. Fishing gear was recorded in 70% of the households, but only in 36% was that gear used during that same year.

Most fishers were older school-going boys using hook and line as the main fishing gear, but small gill nets, a variety of traps and small-mesh seine nets were also used. Eighteen of the 27 fish species known from the Mutshindudi River were recognised by the fishers and had their own vernacular names. Catches of fishers were dominated by small tilapias, small barb species and catfish. The average catch per fishing trip of just under three hours was 162g and the fish were small (mean 26g), which was however quite acceptable to the fishers. A few older fishers sold their catches but most were taken home to be enjoyed with the main meal. Length distribution data of fishers' catches indicated fish populations with normal size distributions, but experimental gill net catches in two pools revealed populations of fish species not normally caught by fishers, including Marcusenius macrolepidotus, Barbus marequensis and Labeo molybdinus/cylindricus. This, and a low catch per unit effort, may indicate a degree of overharvesting of angling species. Measures proposed to prevent further overexploitation include a ban on draw netting as well as restocking the river with tilapia.

Keywords: subsistence fishing; fish-eating habits; rural population; overharvesting; Northern Province; South Africa

(Afr J Aqua Sci: 2000 25: 56-70)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9364
print ISSN: 1608-5914