The Presence of Trout in the Streams and Rivers of Mabandla

- 22 March, 2017

The two main trout rivers of Mabandla Community Area are the Ngwangwane and the Gungununu, but there are also a number of tributaries of these in Mabandla that have held populations of Rainbow Trout and other game fish for almost a century.  According to Crass (1986) both have the reputation of providing quality angling, for trout in the upper reaches of many steams, and KwaZulu –Natal Yellowfish (Labeobarbus natalensis) in the lower reaches of the Ngwangwane.

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are an alien (non-native) species which originate from North America, but which have become acclimatised[1] to South African conditions.  The first introductions of this species into Mabandla waters took place when it was government policy to encourage the stocking of trout into all favourable waters of the country because of the value for food production, for healthy outdoor recreational purposes, and to develop tourism.  These first introductions, undertaken nearly a century ago, proved to be successful from those perspectives, but since the realisation of the importance of conserving indigenous biodiversity, such actions would not presently be condoned.  However experience has shown that once introduced, it is virtually impossible to reverse the situation in waters such as those present in Mabandla that seem to be favourable to them.  Despite severe droughts such as those experienced in the 1980s, and in the past year, in which populations declined significantly, the trout persisted and have become part of the aquatic fauna.  That is, sufficient trout have survived to ensure continuation of their presence.  This fact is significant from a fisheries management point of view.  Several authors including Crass (ibid.) have rated both the Ngwangwane and the Gungununu as premier KZN trout waters.

Few, if any, members of the Mabandla Community seem to be aware that trout are not indigenous to their waters, any more that they recognise that maize, sweet potatoes, ordinary potatoes and all common vegetables are aliens, and are not African.  Trout have in fact become part of the folk lore of the community, and have been given vernacular names, just as have the indigenous fish species.  Interestingly, trout are one of the wildlife species according to Hlatswako (2000) which, like bushbuck, bear separate names for the two sexes, because of their sexual dimorphism.  Some community members (especially the youth), enjoy angling and eating their catches.  Hlatswako (ibid.) records that trout are regarded as more palatable than the native yellowfish.  Trout angling is also seen as a potential adventure tourism attraction, as an addition to the trout value chain.

The trout populations present in Mabandla now constitute a self-perpetuating valuable renewable resource for the community, as part of the trout value chain, for the following reasons.