The local media has been swept up in a wave of maritime fervour as more than one journalist seems to have expressed a deeply personal appreciation of the new SA Agulhas 2. A proud moment for all South Africans as the SA Agulhas arrived at the Table Bay harbour from the shipyards of Finland yesterday amid much fanfare. But no traditional ceremony for this beautiful ship dedicated to the late Miriam Makeba; instead a truly African ‘christening’. Minister of Environmental Affiairs, Edna Molewa ran the length of the ship with a small grass ‘broom’ sprinkling the ship with ubulawu or ‘dream foam’ as a sangoma shouted and sang nearby. Not a sight you see everyday, but this is no everyday ship.
The Smit Amandla captain, Freddie Ligthelm, described the ship as a beefed-up version of the old Agulhas: bigger, wider and stronger. May she travel safe and make us proud.
On the perlemoen front, Doug Butterworth, the UCT mathematician responsible for the calculations of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has been quoted in the media pointing out that within 10 years there will be so few perlemoen left that poachers will basically be out of business.
At present, the total allowable catch is 150 tons and poachers are removing an estimated 1500 tons. One does not have to be a mathematician to see that this equation is disastrous.
Earlier this week the city council announced that it would be moving into marine law enforcement in an attempt to combat the rapidly increasing perlemoen poaching around the peninsula. A unit is to be established, tentatively named the Coastal and Marine Law Enforcement Unit which will work the length of the city’s 300km coastline.
Staff training is already underway and the city has put out a (dare I say the word) tender for an inshore patrol boat. Let us hope we can all work together to try to put a stop to the poaching problem and protect our marine resources for future generations.
Despite the doom and gloom, some good news as the seven individuals who pleaded guilty to their roles in a perlemoen ring last week have been put behind bars. The accused were sentenced to between four and 10 years. Now that is a start.
Finally, there was much excitement at the naval dockyard in Simon’s Town last week as 33 year-old Handsome Thamsanqua Matsane became one of the youngest submariner commanders, officially taking charge of the SAS Queen Modjadji and saying that he had always wanted to work at sea.
Navy spokesman, Prince Tshabalala said that Matsane ‘is an inspiration to other young South Africans who want to join the navy.’ Congratulatiuons to Mr Matsane, let us hope that there will actually be something for him to do.