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.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | August 22, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 22 August 2014

It would seem that the police can only do so much in the fight against abalone poaching, matters are now in the hands of the country’s legal system. It was reported in the press this week that the case against 25 members of a major abalone syndicate has been postponed for another two weeks.

Two of the accused, husband and wife Frank and Josephine Barends, have lodged an application for a stay of prosecution.  The two week delay is to allow the couple a chance to make final admissions or enter plea agreements.  The trial has not yet begun.

The Costa Concordia was back in the news this week with South African company Xtreme Projects and Kevin Kelly grabbing the headlines.  There is a huge amount of local pride around the raising of the stricken vessel and the role that South Africans played in the salvage operation.  Kelly and Xtreme Projects were responsible for the large orange booms that surrounded the vessel during the operation.  The booms were designed to prevent any oil or other waste products that may have leaked from the vessel during the salvage operation from reaching the coast or moving out to sea.

Kelly was quoted as saying that he had no idea it would become such a big story.  “I am still a little shocked.”

Adding to the wave of positivity around the salvaging of the Costa Concordia, Nick Sloane, widely regarded as the master mind behind the greatest salvage operation in history, also made headlines this week.

Sloane has been described as a hero and a rock star by the international press and in an interview with a local newspaper he described some of the challenges faced when undertaking the massive salvage operation.  In the end he said that it was the words of Nelson Mandela that inspired him, ”Everything looks impossible, and then you do it!”

Another wandering seal has been sighted at Misty Cliffs beach near Scarborough.  It was reported in the press that, according to Luke Kruyt of TEARS Animal Rescue, the seal seemed to be in good health and would no doubt move on within a few days.  The leopard seal is thousands of kilometres away from its home in Antarctica.

Members of the public have be warned to stay away from the seal if they come across it, as leopard seals can be aggressive.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | August 19, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 15 August 2014

The hard work of local police in the fight against abalone poaching has made headlines this week with several abalone seizures being reported in the press.  A 37-year-old man appeared in the Strand Magistrate’s court earlier this week after R780 000 worth of abalone was found in his car.

In the eastern Cape police shut down an illegal abalone-drying facility and seized approximately six tons of gourmet mollusc with an estimated value of R10 million. Three men were arrested.

It would appear that inroads are being made by the police to combat the illegal poaching of abalone, but unfortunately confiscation does not assist in the protection of this now highly endangered species. There needs to be greater emphasis on prevention and that is no easy task.

The Panama Canal has made headlines this week, celebrating its 100th birthday.  The famous canal is widely regarded as one of the greatest engineering wonders of the 20th century, but is now under pressure to update and revamp to keep up with competing 21st century canal projects.

The Panama Canal was officially opened on 15 August 1914 and over 1 million vessels have made use of it over the last 100 years.  There are plans to revamp the now dated canal to cater for larger vessels, but the completion date has been extended until January 2016.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | August 9, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 8 August 2014

It was reported in the press this week that, although trout are as yet not mentioned on the new list of alien invasive species, they are not quite out of the woods yet.  The Department of Environmental Affairs is in discussion with members of the local trout industry to determine the listing status of this alien species.

The Federation of Southern African Flyfishers and Trout in SA has welcomed the decision to postpone the listing of trout regulation, saying that they are “committed to finding a workable and simple set of solutions aimed at achieving self-regulation and audited compliance.”

It is, however, still definitely the department’s intention to add trout to the list of invasive aliens, it just remains to be seen how trout will be listed.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | August 1, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 1 August 2014

Perlemoen rights are back in the press this week with Minister Senzeni Zokwana (DAFF) making the announcement that all existing perlemoen rights’ holders have been granted the right to continue fishing for another year.  The existing perlemoen rights expired on Wednesday.

Fisheries management consultant, Shaheen Moolla was quoted as saying that this is the ninth fishing sector to be given exemptions.  “What we are seeing is the farcical collapse of the fishing system to what it was in the 90s.”

In other news, the NSRI was called into action this week after various eyewitnesses reported seeing what looked like paraglider or microlight crashing into the sea near Sunny Cove.

Preparing for the worst, the NSRI launched a rescue vessel and headed to the scene, only to be greeted by 15 “Happy Birthday” balloons tied together and floating in the water about 15 nautical miles offshore.  Darren Zimmerman, NSRI Simon’s Town station commander, said, “It is understandable that at the distances involved it looked like a crashing paraglider or microlight aircraft and the good intensions of the eyewitnesses is commended.”

A young subantarctic seal has also made the news this week after appearing in the water off Scarborough, a mere 2000km away from its home on Marion Island.  The seal is a little thin, so the SPCA has stepped in to help fatten her up and fit her with some high tech tracking gear to monitor her progress back to the island once she is released.

Fingers crossed that she makes it home.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | July 25, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 25 July 2014

The final journey of the ill-fated Costa Concordia has continued to make headlines this week.   In what is being described as the greatest salvage operation in history, the righted and raised vessel has slowly been towed to its final destination, Genoa in Northern Italy.  She will now be scrapped.  A sad end for a once beautiful vessel.

It would seem that shark barriers are big business.  In the press this week is yet another proposal for yet another device designed to keep the sharks along the coast of False Bay at bay.

The Kwazulu-Natal Sharks Board is planning a series of experiments to be conducted along the False Bay coast later in the year and in early 2015.  The tests will use electric cables as a potential alternative to more traditional shark nets. According to Geremy Cliff, head of research at the KZN Sharks Board, funding had been allocated to pursue research into electric shark repellent technologies.

He added that the KZN Sharks Board was committed to trying to find alternative options to protect bathers and at the same time reduce the death rate of large sharks, dolphins, turtles and other marine species.   These technologies were apparently originally looked at in the 1990’s.

Also making the headlines this week is the news that the latest round of oil and gas drilling has begun offshore South Africa.  The companies involved in this particular project are Total and Canadian National Resources.  Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi visited the Eirik Raude at Block 11B/12B in the exploration block Brulpadda 1AX approximately 180 km south of Mossel Bay.  The minster was quoted as saying that he is holding his breath waiting for a call from Total saying that they have found oil.

The wait is now on to see whether this site has anything to offer the South Africa oil and gas industry – which is desperate for a find.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | July 19, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 18 July 2014

The Costa Concordia and the salvage team responsible for resurrecting the stricken vessel, headed by Capetonian Nick Sloane,  have made headlines this week as the luxury vessel was refloated in one of the largest salvage operations in history.  The liner capsized two-and-a-half years ago off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people.  A year ago it was righted and has been resting on a temporary platform waiting to be refloated.

The vessel will now be raised a further two metres to allow it to be moved to the harbour, after which tugs are on standby to tow it to Genoa in northern Italy where it will be scrapped.

Sloane is not the only South African involved in the salvage operation.  Kevin Kelly, managing director of Xtreme Projects has also played a part, supplying the orange containment booms surrounding the vessel.

Another proudly South African operation.  Congratulations to the team on a job well done.

In yet another attempt to deter sharks from coming too close to our country’s most popular beaches, a group of developers have come up with a new eco-friendly shark barrier and are hoping to secure funding for the project.

The “Sharksafe” barrier is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional shark nets and is made up of a combination of permanent magnets and artificial “forests” of plastic pipes that look similar to underwater kelp.  The goal would be to use this kelp deterrent as an alternative to more traditional and lethal systems used in Kwazulu-Natal and Australia.  Traditional nets aim to catch sharks where these “kelp nets” aim to merely deter.

A year long trial of the product, involving more than 60 sharks, showed that no sharks ventured through the “kelp”.

This is certainly something to get excited about, especially with the ongoing shark culling in Australia.  It would be fantastic to see our government get behind this project and protect these beautiful creatures, as well as beach goers, but also to set an example to the rest of the world that traditional shark nets are not the only option.

Posted by: Natalie Janse | July 11, 2014

Weekly Press Review – 11 July 2014

The Global Ocean Commission has made headlines this week with a report stating that our oceans are in decline and that “anarchy rules the waves.”

However, the report is not all doom and gloom.  The commission have come up with a rescue package, entitled “Mission Ocean”.

The commission, made up of former heads of state, government officials and business leaders was established in February 2013.  It has spent the past year investigating the decline of global oceans and developed an eight point rescue strategy:

  • A UN sustainable goal
  • Proper high seas governance
  • The halting of over fishing
  • The elimination of illegal an unregulated fishing
  • The adoption of international binding protocols for safety and environmental standards
  • The establishment of a global ocean accountability board
  • Making the high seas a no-go area for industrial fishing and
  • Coordinated action by governments.

The commission has also called on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ask  member states to urgently adopt a three-step approach to get rid of  fisheries subsidies.  These subsidies are one of the main driving forces behind over-fishing and are being linked to the decline and collapse of fish stocks worldwide.

According to former minister Trevor Manuel, one of the three chairman of the commission, the plan will require political will and extremely bold leadership.

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