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North West has rushed to be the first to take up the inland aquaculture and fisheries program proposed by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, which seeks to encourage communities living in areas close to rivers and dams to take up fish farming.

During the launch of the North West aquaculture and fisheries program at Disaneng dam on Friday, provincial agriculture and rural development MEC Desbo Mohono urged communities near the province’s dams that have been identified as suitable for aquaculture to take ownership of the program, and use it for income generation and food security.

A study by Rhodes University recommended the use of six dams — Disaneng, Ngotwane, Madikwe, Lotlamoreng, Molatedi and Taung — for aquaculture and subsistence fishing in the province, after it was discovered they contained large populations of various fish species.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned in its report, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010, that South Africa was missing out on the opportunity to develop its inland fisheries industry. Most inland fisheries focus on recreational fishing, rather than commercial production.

The FAO said fishing for pleasure or competition contributed to local and national economies through employment in secondary sectors. However, a lot more could be achieved if there were policies in place to encourage modern, small-scale fisheries to produce high-value products for local and international markets, Mohono said.

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