Our issue 16 Troubled Waters.
Whether it’s trout, carp or saltwater species you are in to, one of the Western Cape’s great rivers is struggling like never before.
We love the Berg. It’s one of our closest rivers and it has a storied history in the annals of Western Cape fly fishing. Primarily thought of as a trout river, it fell under the Cape Piscatorial Society’s jurisdiction for decades until Cape Nature moved in and Rotenoned the crap out of it. The odd die-hard finds a way into the upper reaches looking for survivalist in-bred Bear Grylls trout, but nowadays most of the fly fishing focus is either on the saltwater species like leervis/Garrick at the river’s mouth at Velddrif on the West Coast and the carp you find in the middle reaches. At its best, the carp fishing is world class. Big, spooky fish inhabiting clear-running sections of river that look so good the unofficial beats get names like The Test (after Britain’s famous chalk stream). But, with the severe drought that hit Cape Town a year ago and constant pollution, the river is in a sad state and the fishing has gone to shit.
As usual, it’s us humans in general. The Berg is a ‘working river’ in that is a valuable source of both drinking water to Cape Town and provides agricultural irrigation to the many farms along its banks. Due to the drastic state of the water quality, produce from these farms could be banned from exporting to the European Union, a R1,5 billion market many farmers rely on. According to a University of Cape Town (UCT) study, the main drivers of the Berg’s water quality degradation are pollution from urban settlements, wastewater treatment works and agricultural runoff. So, us humans need the river, but in a classic case of an abusive relationship, we don’t treat it well.
The Way Forward
Environmentalists, farmers, business people and NGOs have grouped together to form the Berg River Transformation Project, which is focused on saving the river and restoring it to its previously pristine condition through working with business and local communities. Mark Heistein, CEO of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR) a UNESCO-backed agency involved in the Berg River Transformation Project says, ” The Berg River, like so many other rivers in the world, suffers from biological pollution inputs, and invasive alien vegetation taking over the riparian zones. There is hope however, as the situation has improved over the last ten years due to the huge efforts put in by many partners. The Department of Agriculture, Western Cape Government, WWF, Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve Municipalities, Universities, Conservancies and land owners. It will be a long haul, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
To get involved, visit capewinelandsbiosphere.co.za