Zandvlei and Marina canals: relating rules

The main reason why most of us decided to live on the Marina, was to enjoy what is often called “the Marina lifestyle”- the beautiful views over water to the mountains; the recreational opportunities provided by waterside living- in short, being able to live in a Nature Reserve within the City.

We have just had a timely reminder of the responsibilities which are an integral part of those opportunities. In a recent incident, an angler was confronted by a Conservation official, and threatened with arrest, for contravening a number of City By-laws.

I suppose we take for granted, that, as residents, the Marina waters “belong” to us, and we can do much as we like, within the bounds of reason. The Sandvlei and the canals are of course, Public waters, and under the jurisdiction of Cape Town Nature Conservation and the Sandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve. The Sandvlei Trust, a community- based organisation, also works with these bodies on Conservation issues.

The unfortunate confrontation led to a flurry of E-mail correspondence between “the authorities” and the various user groups- canoeists, yachtsmen, anglers and other recreational users, and culminated in a meeting, convened by Councillor Qually, to discuss the various By-laws.

Council officials explained that the City By-laws date from 1980, and apply generally to all waterways under Council control, ie, they are not specific to Sandvlei and the Marina waters. The By-laws make no distinction between our canals and the main body of the Sandvlei.

Because the laws on usage of the waters are based largely on the similar laws for Public Parks, they produce some curious results, in particular, that our waters are only “open” to the Public between sunrise and sunset. They also prohibit the use of “power boats” which term is defined (not very clearly) to include boats with electric motors. This would rule out the use of the small, battery-powered motors, which many of us use on our boats.

The laws contain an absolute prohibition on the use of cast nets for catching live bait, the preferred choice of anglers fishing for Leervis.

A search of our Marina Archives turned up a number of references, dating back to before 1992, dealing with an informal agreement between Council and the Association on the use of electric motors on Marina waters(not the main Sandvlei) When this agreement was negotiated is not clear: we have nothing in writing, so perhaps it is tacit, rather than explicit.

The meeting was conducted in a lively spirit and led to several constructive suggestions. There was a consensus that the By-laws need to be amended to cater for the specific needs of Sandvlei users; but this is likely to be a lengthy process, requiring a Provincial Ordinance.

In the meantime, an accommodation was proposed in which a number of guidelines were to be agreed pending the redrafting of By-laws and a full Public Participation Exercise. The main points of the consensus are;
  1. Small electric trolling motors to be allowed on Marina waters. There will have to be a detailed technical definition.
  2. Sandvlei, to be “open” from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset.
  3. All anglers must have a fishing license. There is some uncertainty whether this should be a freshwater license, or a saltwater license, but either will be acceptable, until the issue is clarified.
  4. A “catch and release” policy to be adopted in relation to indigenous fish species, but aliens such as Carp, Barbel and Tilapia excluded. These fish species will have to be removed from the water and killed.
  5. Further discussion to take place on cast-netting for baitfish, possibly with limitation on numbers taken, use of purpose-built bait buckets, licensing and clear signage in designated areas.
  6. The involvement of the community in exercising vigilance to report departures from these guidelines.
This point was emphasized by the Conservation managers because they have very limited resources for enforcement, and need active support of responsible users of our waters. Make no mistake: our environment is endangered, and if we want to preserve our lifestyle, we must all play our part. The consultations are continuing and we will keep our members informed of progress.

Please inform Cassy Sheasby, at the Nature Reserve, immediately you observe any illegal activity (tel 701-7542) She will get a new sim card and have a work cell phone number that people can use to report illegalities.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.