KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) yellowfish, or scaly yellowfish as they are affectionately known by anglers, are being re-introduced to the Baynespruit as part of an ongoing environmental rehabilitation project by leading edible oil producer, Willowton Group.
Dr Abie Khan, Quality and Food Safety Manager for Willowton Group, explained that this fish, which goes by the scientific name, labeobarbus natalensis, is a freshwater fish that is common throughout eastern South Africa and is commonly found in most rivers in the province.
Although not threatened, its numbers have decreased due to various anthropogenic pressures such as increased water usage by growing settlements along the banks of rivers in KZN, deteriorating water quality and the establishment of barriers and dams that stop migration. It has been chosen as the species is an ideal indicator species for general river health.
The re-introduction – or inoculation programme – is a strategic part of a broader commitment by Willowton Group to help improve the Baynespruit which is one of South Africa’s six most polluted rivers. The company has committed to monthly clean-ups of a 1-kilometre-long stretch of the Baynespruit River between the bridge at New Greytown Road (Bambatha Road) and Manning venue bridge in Pietermaritzburg. To date, six clean-ups which include the removal of refuse and invasive vegetation from the river and its banks, have been conducted.
Willowton Group has been working with stakeholders including DUCT (Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust) as a fellow founder of the Baynespruit Conservancy in 2020 to clean the river and make environmental improvement efforts.
Dr Khan confirmed that the KZN yellowfish inoculation programme had commenced with the translocation of KZN Yellowfish. “It is coupled with a monitoring programme being undertaken under the independent supervision and guidance of Dr Mark Graham of Groundtruth as well as studies undertaken by the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal.
The re-inoculation programme and associated independent academic research is being funded by the Willowton Group,” he explained. The inoculation strategy has two components – a translocation (re-inoculation) activity where KZN yellowfish numbers will be increased at strategic impacted areas, coupled with a monitoring component assessing the success of the re-inoculation process as well as real-time water quality monitoring and biomonitoring through the deployment of water quality sensors or probes.
According to Yusuf Raja, Environmental Specialist and Project Manager at Global Consulting firm Arup, “the project will assist in improving the overall aquatic system and benefit water users. It also demonstrates the commitment of the Willowton Group to make a meaningful and sustainable difference within the environment in which they operate”.