Manufacturers challenge ban on fishing with drones
The decision last year to ban fishing with drones in South Africa is being disputed by manufacturers determined to see it withdrawn.
The controversy caused by the move has resulted in a high court application and Supreme Court of Appeal case challenging the decision made by the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE).
The current ban means that recreational anglers using drones, remote-controlled boats and other remotely operated vehicles to transport bait will be prosecuted. Criminal cases against drone anglers are ongoing, says the DFFE.
However, five companies involved in the design, manufacture or sale of drone fishing gear have urged that an order be declared that the use of this equipment is not prohibited under the terms of the Marine Living Resources Act 1998.
The drone companies say that sales have come to a standstill since the publication of the warning notice and they are suffering ‘irreparable prejudice.’ They argue that the provisions of the Act do not refer specifically to bait-carrying drones or remote controlled boats.
The department has countered by saying that the issue is whether the use of the gear is authorised by fishing permits that only allow ‘recreational fishing by manually operating a rod, reel and line…’ The banning of the gear is implicit, says the DFFE.
The drone companies’ application was initially dismissed, but they have not given up. A further application has been granted and is yet to be heard.
The DFFE maintain that drone fishing is a threat because it enables anglers to target endangered species way beyond normal casting distance, the amount of line in the water results in more lost tackle and the extended fight time reduces survival rates and increases depredation.
But in a research article published in the Swedish science journal, Ambio, in 2021, five South African fish scientists noted that there are few if any monitoring programmes on the impact of drone fishing.