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Yellowfish to be introduced into a Pietermaritzburg river

The KZN yellowfish, which goes by the scientific name, labeobarbus natalensis is being reintroduced into Baynespruit in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Supplied

The KZN yellowfish, which goes by the scientific name, labeobarbus natalensis is being reintroduced into Baynespruit in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 4, 2022

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Durban – The Baynespruit River in Pietermaritzburg, classified as highly polluted, is being rehabilitated to an extent where the yellowfish is being reintroduced into the river.

Yellowfish or scaly yellowfish as they are affectionately known by anglers, are being reintroduced to the Baynespruit as part of an ongoing environmental rehabilitation project by leading edible oil producer, Willowton Group.

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Dr Abie Khan, quality and food safety manager for the Willowton Group, explained that this fish, which goes by the scientific name, labeobarbus natalensis, is a freshwater fish that is common throughout Eastern South Africa and is commonly found in most rivers in the province.

Although not threatened, its numbers have decreased due to various anthropogenic pressures such as increased water usage by growing settlements along the banks of rivers in KZN; deteriorating water quality; and the establishment of barriers and dams that stop migration. It has been chosen as the species is an ideal indicator species for general river health.

“The re-introduction – or inoculation programme – is a strategic part of a broader commitment by the Willowton Group to help improve the Baynespruit which is one of South Africa’s six most polluted rivers,” Khan said.

The company has committed to monthly clean-ups of a one-kilometre-long stretch of the Baynespruit River between the bridge at New Greytown Road (Bambatha Road) and Manning Avenue bridge in Pietermaritzburg. To date, six clean-ups which include the removal of refuse and invasive vegetation from the river and its banks, have been conducted.

The Willowton Group has been working with stakeholders, including Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT), as a fellow founder of the Baynespruit Conservancy in 2020 to clean the river and make environmental improvement efforts.

Khan confirmed that the KZN yellowfish inoculation programme had commenced with the translocation of KZN yellowfish.

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“It is coupled with a monitoring programme being undertaken under the independent supervision and guidance of Dr Mark Graham of Groundtruth, as well as studies undertaken by the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The re-inoculation programme and associated independent academic research are being funded by the Willowton Group,” he explained.

The KZN yellowfish, which goes by the scientific name, labeobarbus natalensis, is being reintroduced into Baynespruit in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Supplied

The inoculation strategy has two components: a translocation (re-inoculation) activity where KZN yellowfish numbers will be increased at strategic impacted areas, coupled with a monitoring component assessing the success of the re-inoculation process as well as real-time water quality monitoring and biomonitoring, through the deployment of water-quality sensors or probes.

According to Yusuf Raja, environmental specialist and project manager at Global Consulting firm Arup, “the project will assist in improving the overall aquatic system and benefit water-users. It also demonstrates the commitment of the Willowton Group to make a meaningful and sustainable difference within the environment in which they operate”.

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The Baynespruit flows alongside the Pietermaritzburg Industrial area and residential suburbs of Northdale and Sobantu into the Msunduzi River.

Researcher Esmeralda Ramburran, who wrote about the rehabilitation of Baynespruit for increased water supply and improved water quality, stated that the river is most commonly associated with poor ecological health, and its related impacts on local communities and the environment.

“The water quality of Baynespruit will be improved through the rehabilitation, implementation and improvement of ecological infrastructure to the extent at which it is able to provide surrounding communities with water that is safe enough for irrigation of their agricultural crop;, for fishing and recreational purposes; and ensure that water entering the Msunduzi River is of good condition,” Ramburran wrote.

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