THE Swartkops Estuary has been in the media lately with pollution and exploitation being the two main concerns. Without doubt the Swartkops is the most popular of angling venues in the Eastern Cape.
It should have been the Miami of South Africa but instead it has degenerated to a level close to urban decay with disastrous consequences looming. How near is the avalanche effect where the point of no return will be reached? Without serious intervention from the government all will be lost.
It is really sad that only the ratepayers of the area are really concerned and as a result have been very vocal. The powers that be remain complacent and refuse to acknowledge the severity of the problems that plague the estuary that is abundant with life forms.
The Hartebeestpoort Dam is an example of how pollution-affected water systems should be managed. The Swartkops is a fraction of the size of Harties yet the need for management is questioned.
This week saw the "bait stock assessment" being conducted on the estuary by Dr Pete Fielding.
There was no government funding available so private funding was sought and a permit granted to do this census. This was last done five years ago and a comparison can now be done to monitor the life forms that dwell in the mud and sand banks.
This study is conducted around the model of Hanekom who first did this back in 1980. The area surveyed will be from the Corobrik area to the Settlers Bridge area. Approximately 30 sites will be re-excavated by one metre squared and a half metre deep.
All bait forms will be counted and compared to previous studies to correlate any changes in populations of the bait forms found there.
The big question is: "Are the fish toxic?" E coli is not absorbed into the tissue of the fish through digestion as they are cold blooded, so I am informed through an actual study done in the US (personally I have my doubts for safety's sake) but the slime covering that fish have, stores the E coli.
The angler handles the fish and can transfer the E coli to himself orally during this process.
The fish must be washed and well cooked. The angler washes his hands in river water too, adding to potential contamination.
Washing your hands regularly is a good precaution. A few puffs on a cigarette with hands that have not been washed while fishing – as wet hands and a smoke don't work well together – can cause transfer of the bacteria from the hands to your mouth.
Clothing inevitably gets the most contaminated while fishing and the hands come into contact continuously creating a circular path.
Other poisonous chemicals that enter the bodies of fish through the digestive and respiratory systems, can be also found but that study has not been concluded yet on Swartkops-caught fish. But the warning for caution is out.
Besides the dark cloud hanging over the estuary there are tremendous recreational advantages to be gained from the use of the river.
The daily flush of freshwater the estuary receives has saved the intertidal section but areas where this exchange does not take place are highly polluted as a result.
Bodies of water move up and down the river that have been trapped between the tidal fresh seawater and the fresh inflow from the catchment area that, at most, is not heavy (mostly contaminated stormwater anyway) except during heavy rains crucial for the long term survival of the estuary.
This creates a cocktail of poisonous concentrate waiting to contaminate the lower sections. There are figures as high as 16000 colonies E coli per 100ml of water and have been known to spike to far greater counts at times. The norm is 126 colonies E coli per 100ml. Check out this site: www.epa.gov/waterscience/beaches/files/1986crit.pdf