The regular die-off of fish species in the river and estuary indicates that all is not well in the Great Brak aquatic system. “The Great Brak river estuary has degraded over time and is now under pressure as a result of too little clean fresh water reaching the mouth,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).
“This unfortunate situation may have detrimental consequences, not only for all aquatic species, but also for the human population that uses the river for several purposes.”
Estuaries along the South African coast are vital nurseries for fish stocks along the South African coast, and the Great Brak river and estuary is a particularly ecologically sensitive system. As much as nature is resilient, it is also very exposed to the impact and threats brought about by human intervention. If not managed well, it is quite possible that the Great Brak ecosystem will become completely stagnant and dysfunctional, and eventually unable to sustain aquatic life.
Several factors are influencing the river system negatively, but the primary problems include reduced run-off from the catchment due to drought and climate change, severe invasive alien plant stands in the watercourse, too many dams and over-extraction of fresh water for various uses, including agriculture and human consumption.
“In a collaborative effort, the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA), Table Mountain Fund, Garden Route District Municipality and the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) are joining forces and resources to improve the ecological well-being of the river and estuary,” says Meiring.
As a first step, landowners will be informed of the situation. Areas upstream of the estuary that are particularly badly affected by invasive plant growth, will then be mapped and earmarked for clearing, and the flow of water into the estuary will be measured.