Public disorder

Traffic officials intervene to stop Platz Am Meer angling stampede

Floris Steenkamp

Members of Swakopmund’s traffic services intervened yesterday to talk members of the public out of the current trend to use the tidal pool and breakwater at Platz Am Meer for fishing and the illegal harvesting of rock lobster and other sea creatures.

The matter has become a public order concern in recent weeks, as those making themselves guilty of these unwanted fishing activities are threatening and insulting people who point out to them they are on trespassing on private premises.
When pointed out there are signs that state no fishing, they simply laugh it off and adopt a no care attitude. The same no care attitude is shown when they are reprimanded for defecating and urinating o the rocks as there are no public ablution nearby.

The same goes for littering the area and other anglers who also fish on the beach south of the breakwater and that against municipal regulations that forbid any fishing between the Swakop Mouth and the northernmost point of Mile 4.
Platz Am Meer offers a great view over the beach, ocean and the breakwater. Since the beginning of December visitors are increasingly appalled by the degree to which people ignore the no fishing signs and the sheer arrogance people show to ignore local by-laws and continuing to fish in areas not allowed. The situation is also not promoting the image or experience the nearby shopping centre wants to offer its clients.
Apart from anglers, there are also dozens of people climbing down the rocky breakwater to get close to the water with scoop nets to catch small fish and crustaceans living among the rocks in the water. Various people were seen lowering into the water old nylon stockings filled with bait to capture rock lobster. Rock lobster are covered in hundreds of small spines and when going for the bait the rock lobster gets entangled in the nylon material and is captured.
Taxis are seen coming and going the entire day as they bring illegal fishermen and harvesters to the area and carting the catch of the day home again.
“One of the biggest dilemmas is we have laws and bylaws, but it is not enforced fairly and consistently. With that, we create problems which grows to bigger problems”, remarked a person who expressed his disappointment with the situation. Adding, it started off with a few people testing to see if anyone is reacting and now we have scores of people swamping the area every day.
“That is now the image we carry across to our visitors that Namibians don’t care about law and order and that we are not interested to protect our natural environment, the man explained.
Another person added the situation has escalated to a point where the illegal angling and harvesting activities are carried out at night at the breakwater. “Do you want to tell me there is no way this can be stopped? Of course, it can be stopped. Our various law enforcement agencies, including fisheries, have the jurisdiction to act, but the question is, is there a will to act?” the person asked.
A fourth person was of opinion that the situation currently developing at Platz Am Meer is only a fraction of a wider escalating disregard for environmental laws. He made reference to recent media articles which reported the extent to which anglers and boat owners plunder the cob resource.
From anglers smuggling cob from the southern beaches of Walvis Bay where it is illegal to catch and keep cob between 1 January to 31 March of each year to ski boat owners working with syndicates which gets dozens of tons of cob each year and selling it off illegally.
“I think our authorities need to assess this problem in a holistic way. We need to take the total picture in consideration here and different law enforcement agencies must start to cooperate. Government should also step up its efforts to equip law enforcers to be able to do the job and laws should support law enforcers and not allow for loopholes for plunderers to get away”.
What do the other stakeholders in this messy affair say:
Management of Platz Am Meer: the breakwater and access quays are private property and the signs are clear: “no angling, no harvesting of any sea life”. Employees who are trying to convince people to please leave the area, unless they are there to walk on the breakwater and enjoy the scenery, are insulted and verbally threatened.
The Namibian Police: is the only law enforcement arm that can act if the owners/management of the shopping centre lay charges of trespassing. Trespassing can only be proved if the person entered private property with an intent other than to walk in the area. No fishing gear whatsoever should be found on such person.
Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources: fisheries legislation is not making provision for inspectors to act, more than officials can inspect fishing gear and see if everyone have valid fishing permits. Fisheries legislation makes provision for angling on Swakopmund’s beaches, but local authority by-laws make it illegal, therefore the local authority must act.
Swakopmund municipality: the current by-laws make provision for traffic officials to warn people who are illegally angling on any beach between the Swakop River mouth and the northernmost point of Mile 4. Traffic officials have the powers to arrest or issue a fine to members of the public who are not adhering to fair warnings.

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