Posted by: Natalie Janse | October 10, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 10 October 2014

The ongoing perlemoen crisis has made headlines again this week with a study pointing to the fact that ever-depleting perlemoen stocks are primarily due to increased levels of organised crime, drug dependency and poverty in smaller South Africa communities.

The study was conducted by TRAFFIC and 25 years of lawful and unlawful trade in perlemoen formed the basis for the research. The study found that extreme poverty and drug dependence have led to people in small fishing villages turning to perlemoen poaching as a means to gain income.

Most of the perlemoen eventually finds its way to markets in Hong Kong.

Also reported in the press this week is the annual right southern whale survey that is taking place along the coast between Muizenberg and Nature’s Valley at present.

The survey is conducted annually by the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute.  Researchers Ken Findlay and Meredith Thornton are about half way through this year’s survey.  Each whale that they spot is recorded, all cow and calf pairs are recorded and photographed and whales with distinctive brindle markings are also photographed.

The data that is collected is analysed to provide information regarding population abundance, growth rates, survival, calving intervals and age.

The “green seafood” movement has made headlines again with a report published by WWF-SA’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative revealing that the 10 retailers signed up to their programme has shown on average a 30 percent improvement in selling and sourcing sustainably harvested seafood.

The report stated that, “shifts in consumer patterns had triggered a reaction from retailers who began to look for more sustainable suppliers to meet the changing consumer demand.”

Iziko Museums were also in the news  with their focus on marine heritage.  Marine heritage will be celebrated with a week-long programme entitled:  Discovering the Deep:  past, present and future.

National Marine Week is celebrated annually and its aim is to bring awareness to the marine and coastal environment, as well as to promote the sustainable use and conservation of all marine resources.

Posted by: Colleen Jacka | October 7, 2014

Shark boy inspires DEA Minister

Sharing the platform at yesterday’s launch of National Marine Week, Achmat Hassiem – aka shark boy – stole much of the limelight as he motivated learners to pursue their dreams. But he also managed to capture the attention of the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, who attempted to persuade him to share his motivation with public servants and inspire them in their work.

Achmat survived a harrowing shark attack in 2006. The incident resulted in the loss of one of his lower legs, but failed to see him lose his spirit to pursue his dream of representing South Africa on the international sporting stage. He went on to compete in the Para Olympics and in 2012 won a bronze medal in the pool. He currently holds a number of world records in swimming – and champions the conservation of sharks when he speaks to audiences around the world.

The learners at the function clung to every word of his story as he described, in detail, the terrifying experience of coming face to face with a 4.7 m shark. Tall, muscular, fit and clearly ambitious and driven to succeed, Achmat was also clear in his message that life is to be lived and enjoyed.

Before delivering her keynote address, Minister Molewa spent a number of minutes addressing the shark-boy as he became known in swimming circles. She asked him to leave the international audiences and concentrate on delivering his message to the public servants of South Africa.

It’s clear that she feels our administrators could benefit from his message – and who would not agree that public servants get a little shot of enthusiasm to help them cope with the rigours of their daily work. Achmat certainly helped me aim to peal away a layer of complacency!

 

Posted by: Colleen Jacka | October 6, 2014

Three new vessels to be launched in National Marine Week

National Marine Week kicked off in Cape Town this morning when the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Minister Edna Molewa, addressed a small audience of learners, invited guests and media. It was the first in a number of maritime-related functions in our calendar this week that includes the launch of three new vessels in Durban and Cape Town.

  • On Wednesday Sea Harvest will name their newly acquired R130 million vessel, the Atlantic Peace where Chairman Fred Roberston and CEO Felix Ratheb will officiate the proceedings.
  • Nautic Africa launches their 35 m Sentinal on Thursday in the Cape  Town harbour and invited guests will be treated to a little spin in the multi-role crew and patrol vessels.
  • Smit Amandla Marine will launch the latest addition to their fleet in Durban on Thursday.  The Sibanye linerunner has been in production at the SA Shipyards facility and will receive a formal welcome.

That’s a lot of nautical flavour for a week that is aptly named and perhaps speaks to the pronouncements that the government is making around the blue economy. Minister Molewa touched on the importance of Operation Phakisa this morning too – and affirmed that the results of the Ocean Lab deliberations held in Durban recently will be announced shortly.

She added that the Department of Environmental Affairs has been tasked to lead the blue economy initiative and that the focus will be on sustainable economic and social development.

We are still collecting feedback from the industry on Operation Phakisa. <CLICK HERE> To complete our quick survey on the initiative.

 

Posted by: Natalie Janse | October 3, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 3 October 2014

The vessel the Africa Mercy has made headlines this week as she docked at the V&A Waterfront for a two week visit.  The vessel is the world’s largest civilian hospital ship and will host three open days during her stay in Cape Town before departing for Madagascar.

The vessel, which is equipped with state-of-the-art operating rooms, is staffed by volunteers and provides free medical care to patients across Africa.

The Africa Mercy and her sister vessels have visited more than 70 countries and provided more than R11 billion worth of medical services.  More than 2.5 million patients have been treated.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | September 26, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 26 September 2014

Hout Bay beach has made headlines this week.  The beach has been closed since late last week after standard water tests revealed high levels of E.coli.

According to Benedicta van Minnen of the mayor’s office, the cause of the high E.coli levels may not necessarily be only due to human waste in the Disa River which flows through Hout Bay.  She stated that, after the heavy rains at the end of the rainy season, the storm water flowing into the sea can also raise the E.coli levels.

The NSRI was in the news again this week after rescuing a sailor who fractured his hand and arm whilst on board his vessel.

The Anna M was sailing from Cameroon to Singapore when a 41-year old Turkish sailor fell 5 metres on board his vessel and required medical assistance.  The vessel headed for Cape Town to arrange for the evacuation of the sailor.

Pat van Eyssen NSROI Table Bay station commander said, “Our NSRI Table Bay volunteer sea rescue duty crew launched our sea rescue craft accompanied by two Western Cape Government Health EMS rescue paramedics and responded.”

The sailor is being treated at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.

Results of studies done by Nasa regarding the thinning of the ice in the Arctic sea grabbed also attracted some media attention.  Ice readings are at their sixth lowest since recording began in 1978.

Nasa tracks sea ice from space, as well as performing airborne field research.  Operation IceBridge operates flights over the Arctic and has been measuring sea ice and ice sheets for several years.

According to Walter Meier, researcher at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, “It is so much thinner than it used to be, it is more susceptible to melting.”

Posted by: Natalie Janse | September 19, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 19 September 2014

The upcoming Shark Bay development in Langebaan has made headlines this week.  After a 25 year battle the residents of Langebaan have had to admit defeat as their application to halt the development of the Langebaan lagoon area has been dismissed by the Western Cape High Court.

In essence this means that the developer, Dormell Properties 391, has been granted permission to build 69 luxury houses on the eastern shores of the lagoon.  The land in question runs very close to the West Coast National Park and residents have based their argument against the development on the fact that they felt that relevant considerations about the status of the land had not been taken into account and mandatory procedures had not been followed.

The court dismissed this and the development will go ahead.

Also making headlines this week are the findings of researchers from the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute, who have discovered that African bottlenose dolphins have a very specific whistle for each specific dolphin. What this means is that they use a rich variety of different sounds to communicate, find food and navigate on a daily basis.  They may even be able to learn new sounds.

Scientist, Tess Gridley, says, “This ability to learn new sounds is quite unusual in the animal kingdom.” She adds that dolphins use signature whistles to stay in contact with other dolphins and to regroup if they become separated.

The gap between humans and other mammals gets a little smaller.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | September 12, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 12 September 2014

Reported in the press this week was the discovery of two missing vessels that could unlock one of  history’s biggest maritime mysteries.  One of the two British explorer ships that vanished in the Arctic whilst searching for the fabled Northwest Passage has been found almost 170 years later.

The HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror disappeared in the 1840s and one of the wrecks has been discovered by a Canadian search team that has been searching for the vessels since 2008.  At this point it is not clear which vessel has been found.  It is believed that the vessels were lost after they became locked in ice near King William Island.

There is now a dispute over who actually owns the passage where the vessel has been discovered.  Canada believes that the body of water belongs to them, but others say that it is international territory.

Whoever takes ultimate credit for the discovery of and ownership of this wreck, it is still an amazing discovery so many years after such a terrible loss.

Posted by: Colleen Jacka | September 9, 2014

Riding the wave of the blue economy

Since I started reporting on the maritime sector in the mid 1990’s, the industry has been complaining about the lack of recognition it receives from government. It has been one of the biggest and most constant gripes. At the beginning of the year when the African Union announced the maritime decade, it was clear that the landlocked mindset of the continent was shifting – and the South African government’s July launch of Operation Phakisa affirms that strategic thinking is taking place to develop the “blue economy”.

With the government’s emphasis on four distinct areas there are, of course, sectors of the maritime industry currently not receiving the same level of attention. A conversation with a stakeholder, however, revealed that the full spectrum of opportunities within the blue economy is being considered. He said that more details will be announced during the course of the coming months and that a document would be released highlighting the recommendations made by industry experts at the conclusion of the Ocean Lab sessions held in Durban.

With a probable second South African Maritime Industry Conference hosted by the South African Maritime Safety Authority due to be called before the end of the year, it seems likely that Operation Phakisa will take centre stage. One is not sure, however, to what extent the outcomes of the Ocean Labs will be set in stone and to what extent they will be flexible enough to accommodate further interrogation by other stakeholders omitted from the initial deliberations.

I am choosing to remain cautiously optimistic, but am not so naive as to believe that the naming of an important sounding strategy within government will necessarily provide the panacea that the industry is waiting for. Despite adopting a “quick fix” strategy from Malaysia to churn out a blue economic policy in less than six weeks, the real work will require a lot more staying power and even some unpopular decisions.

President Jacob Zuma says that he will be monitoring the progress on an ongoing basis. Well, so will I and I hope to be able to provide updates via this blog in the future.

We also welcome any feedback from industry in this regard. Please drop me an email with your thoughts or complete the survey on Operation Phakisa by clicking here.

Operation Phakisa 3

Posted by: Natalie Janse | September 5, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 5 September 2014

Two South African animal rights activists made headlines this week when they were arrested in the Faroe Islands after attempting to stop islanders from killing pilot whales during a traditional hunt.

The hunt is an annual event on the Faroe Islands, an autonomous state. Islanders defend the killing as a cultural right, but animal rights campaigners condemn it as a “brutal slaughter.”

The South African activists, part of the group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, were arrested by the Danish navy, who provide assistance to the Faroe Islands to secure their fishing rights.  They have both been released, but are apparently severely traumatised by witnessing the slaughter of these sea creatures.

Cape Town has played host to a fishing conference this week. It was reported in the press that more than 100 delegates from approximately 30 countries attended the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, where the interests of small fishers was the main topic of discussion.

Speaking at the conference was Seth Macinko, an academic from the University of Rhode Island in the US.  He warns that there is a global push to privatise the oceans’ stocks.  In theory, this would mean that investors would have exclusive property rights over these public resources which would be used like any other commodity to be traded.

Macinko said, there is “A heavy emphasis on the idea of privatising fishing rights to make it an investment option, a commodity to attract Wall Street-style investors.”

This idea would obviously create a huge problem for small scale fishers who would no doubt be completely cut out of the loop.

Whether a proposal like this would ever find its feet in South African waters is doubtful.  Fishing rights allocation is an extremely troubled process at present and the outcry over small scale fishermen being cut out would surely be to huge a hurdle to overcome.

The SA Agulhas II has once again set sail for Gough Island on her annual visit.  It was mentioned in the press this week that the research team on board the vessel will spend 14 months on the island and will be joined by members from the Department of Public Works, Starlite Aviation and officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | August 29, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 29 August 2014

PetroSA has made the headlines this week with the decision to cancel plans to build a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Mossel Bay.  The decision was based on a feasibility study which revealed several technical complications at the site as well as financial considerations.

The company has said that it is still planning to keep looking for a suitable location along the coast.

A story revealing how fishermen take care of fishermen also made news this week.  Local fishermen came to the aid of two fishermen whose rubber duck capsized off the coast of Lamberts Bay. The fishermen were escorted to the local harbour where the NSRI were on hand.  The two stricken fishermen, aged 55 and 45 were treated for mild hypothermia.

The NSRI thanked the fishing community in the area for their assistance.

In environmental news, it was reported that Japan is planning to propose a 50 percent cut on catches of young tuna.  The decision is aimed at safeguarding the at-risk species.

With the terrible weather slamming the South African coast this week, it is not surprising that rough seas led to a chokka fishing boat running aground off St Francis Bay.  It has been reported that the vessel, the Sikelela, lost power while turning towards the harbour entrance and, due to high swells and strong winds, ran aground on rocks and harbour wall dolosse.

The St Francis Bay NSRI managed to rescue all 13 crew members.

A survey into plastic pollution in our oceans grabbed media attention too.  Author, Charles J Moore, a captain in the US Merchant Fleet and founder of a leading ocean research group has stated that he is “utterly shocked” by the amount of plastic floating in the sea.

The sight causing all the alarm is what is being described as a floating landfill site in the North Pacific Ocean and Moore believes that the ever increasing amount of pollution in our oceans is far deadlier than climate change.

“It’s choking our future in ways that most of us are barely aware of.”

Unfortunately there are no high tech methods to reduce ocean pollution, but plastic pollution seems to be the biggest contributor.  With plastic, there is action that can be taken.  The survey offers some solutions:

  • Plastic bag tax
  • Screens to cover gutters and catchment basins
  • Even more emphasis on recycling
  • Sieve-like skimmers to remove debris from the water.

These all sound like practical solutions, but like most problems affecting our planet, I think the first change needs to take place in the hearts and minds of those living on this planet.  That would be us.  Think, reuse and recycle.

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