bringing back the witvis

A freshwater rewilding effort to bring the Endangered Witvis back to the Berg River

The Witvis is a large, charismatic freshwater fish that was historically widespread in the Berg and Breede River Catchments. However, it’s numbers have declined sharply over the last century due to predation by introduced invasive fish like bass, and because of habitat degradation. The species was declared extinct in the Berg River in the 1990s, and numbers in the Breede are in decline. As a result, the Witvis has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Global Red List of Threatened Species, and urgent conservation action is needed to prevent it from going extinct in the wild.

A mature Witvis (Pseudobarbus capensis) photographed in the Breede River catchment by Leonard Flemming.


The Bringing Back the Witvis project which aims to (1) establish new sanctuary Witvis populations in dams in the Berg River catchment, and (2) from these dams stock Witvis back into the Berg River to rebuild a wild population of this charismatic fish that went extinct decades ago.

A recent survey of the Berg River indicates that the threats that caused the species to go extinct in the 1990s have been reduced (bass numbers have declined, habitat quality has improved), presenting an opportunity to re-establish a healthy Witvis population in this part of the river. Witvis play an important role in the river ecosystem, and is also a sought-after fly fishing species, so establishing new populations of the species in farm dams and ultimately in the river itself can have ecological, economic and recreational benefits.

Survey results show that sharptooth catfish have replaced smallmouth bass as the dominant fish species between Franschoek and Wellington.

The project has a strong emphasis on working collaboratively with local fishermen, land owners and schools to raise freshwater awareness and ensure sustained support for these conservation actions in the long term.




Project Leader
Jeremy Shelton

EFT Account Details

Account Name:               Freshwater Research Centre NPC 
Bank:                                 Nedbank Limited
Account No:                     102 680 5341    
Branch Code:                   104 309
Swift Code:                       NEDSZAJJ

Please use your Name and the project you would like to donate to as as reference e.g. Jane_Saving Sandfish. If you would also be so kind as to email us with your details once you have made the payment. Please also let us know if you would like to receive a Section 18a Certificate. You can send that email to
We would like to thank you for your contribution, it means a lot to us!