Rescue efforts for missing Hangberg fisherman Durick van Blerk were hampered when police vessels searching the Hout Bay harbour ran out of fuel on Tuesday.
Van Blerk has been missing since Friday after he went overboard following an alleged altercation with an anti-poaching unit, when he and two others were prevented from allegedly fishing for crayfish illegally.
His fellow fishermen were arrested and released on R1 000 bail when they appeared at the Wynberg Magistrate's court on Monday.
Police were joined in their search by the NSRI. The search began on Saturday after news of his disappearance sparked outrage in the community
The Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries (Daff) announced that all stakeholders who usually use Hout Bay harbour for their commercial fishing landings divert their landings to Cape Town harbour with immediate effect.
This meant the police had to travel from Cape Town harbour instead of landing directly from the Hout Bay harbour, as they did the day before.
Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said the search for the 26-year-old was halted due to operational reasons and that the search will resume today.
The fisher’s father, Edward van Blerk, waited at the harbour during the day as police continued their search.
“Our family will not speak to anyone and have selected a community member to do so on our behalf. There seems to be too many issues being thrown into what happened to my son and we don’t want to involve ourselves but focus on the return of our son,” he said.
Edward was waiting for the police and said local fishers who assisted in the search over the past few days did not go out as many had gone to court, where Hangberg residents arrested during the protests had appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court.
Durick's pregnant wife, Christine van Blerk, along with residents, searched along the shoreline where he reportedly had entered the sea in the hope his body may have washed ashore.
Hangberg resident Natasha Meter said there had been unrest in the area on Monday night after the duo arrested on the night Durick went missing were released on bail. This had resulted in the call for the landings to be diverted. Police had to park their vehicle and trailers at the Hout Bay police station as well.
Speaking on behalf of the family, community activist Roscoe Jacobs said: “The family are calling on the residents of Hangberg to please remain calm as any unrest halts the search for their son. They said while they understand the many issues raised by the community, they are asking that until Durick is found, it be placed on hold for now.”
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana said the department met Hout Bay community leaders at Parliament on Tuesday to engage on the situation.