IFSM – Innovating, Initiating, and Conserving

Scenic photo of lake

Invasive Fish Species Management (IFSM) is a non-profit company (NPC) whose primary function is aimed towards the conservation of freshwater wetlands and lakes, and the study of the diverse impact invasive fish species have on freshwater aquatic life. Working in collaboration with the nature conservation authorities Cape Nature and SANParks, IFSM specialises in the capture and management of invasive freshwater fish species, including Cyprinus carpio (Common carp). Due to its wide distribution, Common carp are listed as one of the most damaging freshwater aquatic invasive species.

The Groenvlei Lake on the Garden Route is a freshwater lake on South Africa’s glorious Garden Route which has been severely affected by the presence of the Common carp. Being primarily omnivorous bottom feeders, the prolific feeding habits of Common carp disrupt shallow rooted aquatic plants, which muddies waterbodies. Having prolific breeding habits also, Common carp may under ideal climatic conditions spawn several times in a year, releasing thousands of eggs per spawning season. Carp release phosphorus that increases the abundance of algae, which ultimately poses severe impacts on shallow wetlands and lakes.

Captured carp is divided into 2 categories

Category 1: From “Water to Table”

The Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected economies across the globe. The South African economy is no exception and has suffered a tremendous blow. As a result of the National lockdown declared under a state of disaster, underprivileged rural communities have suffered most, with a ripple effect threatening long-lasting effects on poor and rural communities. The unemployment rate in South Africa has increased, leaving many people in poor communities without any source of income to feed their families. On 22 May 2020, a Covid-19 community feeding programme was approved between the key players Cape Nature and the Knysna Municipality. The concept behind the Covid-19 community feeding programme was to utilise the biomass of Common carp as a nutrient rich food source to disadvantaged communities. As a longstanding partner in conservation with Cape Nature, IFSM undertook the voluntary task of spearheading the operational aspects of capturing of carp towards the benefit of the community feeding programme. With The Gift of The Givers working in association with IFSM, IFSM spearheaded the capture of 1373 carp (3271kg), which was distributed to poor communities between May 2020 and May 2021.

Category 2: From “Water to Soil”

Health regulations and liabilities place landfills and abattoirs in a predicament when it comes to facilitating the waste disposal of fish unfit for human consumption. With fish being a perishable commodity, effective disposal presents several challenges. Captured carp can become unfit for human consumption for a variety of reasons:

– During capturing operations, unforeseen logistical delays can cause carp to spoil rapidly. This increases the risk of the spread of pathogens and bacteria which may compromise health regulation protocols, leaving such carp to be discarded
– Natural fish die-outs
– Carp suffering from bacterial decay caused by otter, bird strikes, or angler’s hook tear-out
– Carp suffering lesions
– Harmful algal blooms i.e. cyanobacteria

IFSM allocates spoilt, or surplus dead carp towards several waste disposal solutions:

  1. Soil Amendment

A farming enterprise dedicated towards the development of organic farming concepts utilises carp waste to produce a liquid organic soil amendment. During a cold fermentation process, fish waste and West coast kelp is anaerobically digested by beneficial microbes through hydrolysate enzymes. Beneficial microbes are added to hydrolyse the nutrients of both fish and kelp, which is in turn transformed into an effective liquid soil amendment which has a high nutrient yield readily absorbed by plants. Surplus fish waste is also utilised by the farm to produce compost. IFSM has a stand at the Wild Oats Farmers Market in Sedgefield; they are there every Saturday from 8am till 12pm. For home-grown veggie gardens, nurseries, and plants, you can purchase your 3-In-1 Fish Kelp Hydrolysate there.


2. Pet Treats

Carp air bladders are retained and cleaned in a mild saltwater solution, rinsed in freshwater, then naturally dehydrated under shade. The dehydrated air bladders are high in Omega 3 and protein. We market the dehydrated air bladders as nutritional dog treats which helps in raising funds towards operational costs. Dogs call them Dog Chappies, and as you can see below, being a Dog Chappie pro is a big deal!

dog enjoying a treat

Groenvlei is a World Heritage Site situated in the Goukamma Nature Reserve.

It was in the late 90’s that the Common carp was illegally introduced into the lake. Today the infestation of carp has increased exponentially causing a drastic decline in the lake’s previously unsullied condition, and leaving its once pristine beauty and unique ecosystem as a natural freshwater lake at stake.

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