Fishing on the coast
  • Most beaches across South Africa are now closed.
  • But you can still use any beach, any time outside curfew, as long as you have a fishing licence, and you're there to fish.
  • That means filling out a form and spending around R150 will get you around the beach bans, legally.
  • A rule that allows anyone with such a licence use of the beach remains in the regulations for the adjusted Level 3.
  • Try to go for a swim, though, and you could still be in trouble.
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Most – but not all – of South Africa's beaches are now closed for the typical summertime uses.

Under the adjusted Level 3 that South Africa suddenly entered this week, those beaches seem very unlikely to be open to the public again until at least mid January.

But for about R150 and a little bit of your time, you can bypass those bans, just as long as you don't intend to swim.

"The closure of beaches and restrictions on times of operation do not apply to fishermen for fishing purposes, who are in possession of a permit or exemption granted in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act," says regulations published on Tuesday morning, preserving language from the first set of rules that closed beaches earlier in December.

That law includes provisions around recreational fishing licences, the kind you can buy from the Post Office for R57. Add a fishing rod – specialist seafront shops say they can sell you a kiddie rod "that looks okay for a grownup" for around R100 – and you have legal access to any beach, any time outside the general curfew, so until 22:00 in hotspots and until 23:00 elsewhere.

See also | December lockdown rules just became law, with new details about what could land you in jail

A licence and a rod should get you through any police roadblocks enforcing the beach shut-downs, lawyers say. They will allow you to legally walk as far as you think you need to go, and set up shop with, say, a couple of snacks and a folding chair. Swimming out beyond the waves with a line, or paddling out with it, is also within bounds – but frolicking in the waves is illegal, because everything you do must be linked to fishing purposes.

Unless your fishing activity meets the definition of "vigorous exercise", you'll need to wear a face mask throughout your excursion. 

The reference to "fishermen" – as opposed to the gender-neutral "fishers" – probably does not exclude women, lawyers say, though you may have trouble arguing that small children are accompanying you to fish.

* This article was updated after the publication of new Level 3 regulations.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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