Passionate angler Henry Loubser has conducted angling safaris for 30 years. Fish, especially Namibia’s surf species, are near and dear to the former electrician who worked at the Rössing Uranium Mine. He believes that we know next to nothing about the fish on our coast and that a lot more in-depth research should be done. Early in the morning Loubser goes to the beach, looks at the sea and knows whether or not it is worth taking the boat out that day. Stepping out of his front door in Swakopmund, the experienced surf and boat angler can tell by the colour of the Atlantic Ocean, the swell and general weather conditions, where to take his guests for an exciting day.
Some 15 years ago researcher Dr Hannes Holtzhausen fortunately saw to it that laws were passed to regulate the catches made by hobby anglers, Loubser says. Under these laws an angler is allowed only two kob of more than 70 cm long and two West Coast seabream with a total length of at least 65 cm per day. In addition, a maximum of ten fish of other species may be taken home per angler per day, provided they have the prescribed minimum length. According to Henry Loubser the stock of kob has recovered to a sustainable level over the past three to four years, all thanks to protective legislation.
Commercial fishermen with boats used to catch up to 5000 tons of kob. Over the years the volume dwindled to just 100 tons per year because stocks were declining drastically. At that point commercial exploitation was banned. These days only five registered ski boats (ocean-going motorboats) are allowed to catch kob commercially. Loubser points out that regrettably the sale of surf fish species is neither prohibited nor controlled. Each angler on the registered boats is allowed to sell his legally caught fish and the maximum number permitted per day.
Almost every day Henry takes guests from all over the world fishing – either by boat or from the beach. The angling trips are particularly popular because apart from edible fish, species like rays and sharks are bound to be hooked as well. Thanks to Henry’s expert knowledge and his many years of experience, these fish are safely returned into the ocean.
“Anglers must treat every fish with care and respect”, says Loubser. Fish which are too small, i.e. less than the minimum limit, or too large – if you already have two of those big ones – have to be carefully taken off the hook. They must not be dragged on sand, must not be flung back in and must not be kept out of the water for longer than necessary. The same applies to species that are not considered edible like sharks, rays or guitarfish. Fish die when they are dragged on sand because the protective layer of mucus will be destroyed. A fish is also doomed to die from injuries it invariably sustains when it is grabbed by the gills. “Chucking it back in the water” may cause the swim bladder to burst and thus result in the fish’s death as well.
Anyone who goes angling with an expert like Henry Loubser will learn and see how fish must be handled so that this valuable natural resource, which is renewable if used in a sustainable manner, can be preserved for many generations to come.
Author: Dirk Heinrich