Fish ID courses for fisheries compliance officers
Over the years SAIAB has conducted training courses for freshwater fisheries officials with participants from several SADC countries, including Angola, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Roger Bills has been primarily responsible for this training. In the past two years, Ofer Gon has extended the training to marine and coastal law enforcement officers of the DEAT’s Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) division.
These officials enforce compliance with fishing regulations promulgated under the Marine Living Resources Act (MLRA) of South Africa (act no. 18, 1998). The MLRA regulates the fishing of individual species of South Africa’s marine and estuarine fishes in the recreational, commercial and subsistence fishery sectors. Compliance enforcement officers must therefore be able to identify these species in the field as well as in storage, and to defend their identification.
The purpose of the course is to introduce the students to scientific principles such as species, classification and biological similarity; alert them to available resources relevant to their work, such as books and electronic databases, and to teach them how to handle a fish specimen and use scientific identification keys.
Each four-day course comprises laboratory practical and short theory presentations, which are followed by hands-on work with specimens. A feature of the courses is the close one-on-one, teacher-student interaction. Between sessions and at the end of each day the students are encouraged to use computers in SAIAB’s library to apply what they have learned about electronic databases and gain experience in their use. At the end of the course the students evaluate their newly acquired fish identification skills through an informal test.
All officers receive a certificate of participation on completion of the course.