Cape Town. 15.11.2005: Maynard "Joburg" Johannisen from Bellville, striking it lucky on the first day of the Crayfish Season at Roundrocks, near Gordon's Bay. Picture: Sophia Stander/ Story Murray Williams

Cape Town - One of Cape Town’s most well-known anglers and crayfishermen has slammed the Table Mountain National Park for what he perceives to be illegal overcharging for access to its parks and reserves.

“This issue has been coming on for years, and I know my frustrations represent many others who use the Cape Point Nature Reserve as a base to fish for crayfish,” said Mike de Wet.

“I am all for conserving our oceans and natural heritage, but I cannot stand by while daylight robbery is going on. Poachers get away with these things for free, while law-abiding recreational fishermen are being slapped with fees and charges left, right and centre.”

De Wet and officials at the reserve fell out when he was fined R500 for “not obeying the instructions of a park official” last month, at the start of the crayfishing season.

At the time, De Wet had a crayfishing permit, obtained at the Post Office, and a level three activity permit, which allowed him access to the reserve to line-fish and transport these fish out of the reserve.

It is the same permit that allows for other activities, such as mountain biking and horse riding, around designated sections of the park.

De Wet says there is no law that excludes crayfishing from the provisions of the level three permit.

“I have been an oceanographer for 13 years and am well-versed in the legislation. Nowhere is there a law that can be invoked to say crayfish cannot be transported through the Cape Point reserve,” he said.

When he was fined R500, he made this case to the public prosecutor who, he said, threw out the charges as a result.

But Merle Collins, spokeswoman for the park, contests this. She maintains that an additional permit is legally required to extract crayfish.

“Cape Point Nature Reserve has a Marine Species Access Permit for the movement and introduction of specified marine resources through a national park, as per the Protected Areas Act (57 of 2003).”

The permit, which excludes line fishing, was valid for use for the specified resources listed on the annual Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ recreational fishing permit, which included crayfish and mussels, Collins said.

“Moreover, the Marine Access Permit can be purchased only when the user is able to produce a valid annual Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recreational fishing permit and a South African identity document.”

The current set-up, said De Wet, meant that line fishermen who wanted to engage in recreational crayfishing at Cape Point needed to pay R360 for a level three permit, as well as R600 for 12 entries under a marine species access permit. These payments are in addition to the requirement of a permit from the Post Office.

But Collins said: “In terms of the economic viability of recreational crayfishing, TMNP offers the following product to fishermen: instead of paying a R90 entrance fee and R45 for the marine species access permit every (day) the user enters the Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park, users can buy a R600 marine species access permit. The permit gives the user 12 entries a card, resulting in a saving of R1 020 a card.”

Cary Steele-Boe of the Recreational Fishing Services, which represents more than 5 000 recreational fishermen in the Western Cape, said the park had been overcharging fishermen for years. “They are discouraging fishermen and women from getting permits or renewing permits year on year. This means fewer and fewer people travelling to Cape Point to fish.”

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Cape Argus