The ‘fishery’ in South Africa’s remaining coastal stonewall fish traps

  • LV Kemp
  • GM Branch
  • CA Attwood
  • SJ Lamberth

Abstract

Ancient stonewall fish traps along the southern coast of South Africa, known locally as ‘vywers’,  have both cultural and historical significance.  Most have been degraded through neglect. Only two sets of vywers are actively maintained and fished, but without legal sanction. We surveyed historical and present-day fishing techniques and  catches in the remaining vywers at Stilbaai and  Arniston. Fishing takes place on pre-dawn, new-moon spring low tides. Fishers have replaced traditional spears with monofilament gillnets to remove fish from the vywers. Catches were and still are dominated by harders< i>Liza richardsonii, but occasional large harvests of elf Pomatomus  saltatrix, white musselcracker Sparodon durbanensis, white steenbras Lithognathus lithognathus, dusky kob Argyrosomus japonicus and galjoen Dichistius capensis are a conservation concern. There is also concern that if the illegal fishers are stopped, that the last functional vywers and the historical fishing practice will also vanish. In the interest of preserving this coastal heritage, we propose a compromise that will allow the fishers to continue with impunity but without threatening the conservation of coastal fish.

Keywords: archaeological fish traps; fisheries management; historical fishing; sustainable fishery; vywers

African Journal of Marine Science 2009, 31(1): 55–62

Author Biographies

LV Kemp
Marine Biology Research Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
GM Branch
Marine Biology Research Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
CA Attwood
Marine Biology Research Centre, Department of Zoology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
SJ Lamberth
Marine and Coastal Management, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Private Bag X2, Rogge Bay 8012, South Africa
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 1814-2338
print ISSN: 1814-232X