A dog inspects some of the netting that was removed from the Umkomaas river in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Community member and “river guardian” George Snodey says these nets are causing extensive damage to marine life in the river, which is an important spawning ground for fish species. Picture: George Snodey

Community members and police rushed to the Umkomaas River on the KZN South Coast early on Wednesday to remove illegal fishing nets that cause ecological damage in the river.

George Snodey, in a post on Facebook, said Emille Pirzenthal - one of a crew of "river guardians" -  received a call from local resident Les Spence late on Tuesday about gill nets that had been placed in the Umkomaas River.

Snodey said they started searching the river in the early hours of Wednesday morning and soon got help from Umkomaas SAPS members who had also got wind of the nets and were conducting their own search.

“We eventually got three nets before dropping the SAPS boys off and they then found another one near the skiboat club.The four nets, some of which spanned across the entire river, measured no less than about 1.2km in total, causing absolute carnage in the river, especially when one considers the fish use these estuaries to spawn in.”

Snodey said he observed that the amount of fish in the river, when compared with the same time last year, had dropped significantly.

“Last year this time the nets had hundreds of fish in - today they probably had a tenth of that, a sure indication of the devastation caused.”

Snodey said the SAPS officers, although finishing their shift at 6am, were still at the river at 7am removing nets. 

“These guys are an asset to Umkomaas, thanks boys in blue.”

Illegal gill netting is a common problem on the south coast and in this river in particular, and police and community members are on constant lookout for transgressors of the law. In one year they had pulled out 150 nets between Illovo River and Umkomaas.

Fish that can be saved are returned to the river.

"We released the live ones this morning, the others we threw in (the river) so the crabs and other fish can eat them," said Snodey.