Weekly Press Review – 28 March 2014

In a week characterised by one disaster after the next: from missing airliners over the Indian Ocean, to mud slides in Washington state, I guess we should be grateful that there has been little or no maritime news as it would undoubtedly not have been good.

However, once again a story featuring the amazing creatures of our oceans has made the news this week.  Scientists in the US have tracked a group of Cuvier’s beaked whales as they dived to incredible depths off the Californian coast.  The tagged whales dived to depths of up to 2 992 metres, spending two hours and 17 minutes under-water before surfacing for air.

These dives represent both the longest and deepest dives ever recorded for any marine mammal.

Greg Schorr of Cascadia Reseach Collective in Olympia, Washington, says:  “Many creatures live at the depths these whales dive to.  However, there is a major difference between these whales and other creatures living deep in the ocean – the fundamental requirement to breathe air at the surface. Taking a breath at the surface and holding it while diving to pressures over 250 times that at the surface is an astounding feat.”

The whales were tracked using satellite-linked tags attached to the dorsal fins.

There is still much to be learned from the ocean that we so readily take for granted and abuse.

Other than that – there has been the usual to-and-fro between the minister of fisheries and her detractors in the press and via social media.






Weekly Press Review – 20 March 2014

As if the threatened impeachment of our president this week was not enough to bring embarrassment to our nation, a member of the police Sea Border Unit, and his wife, have been arrested after 1,819 abalone were found at their home in Fisherhaven.

Along with the abalone, police also seized crayfish tails, a boat and a car.  The estimated value of the total find is around R1.3 million.

Is there no end to the corruption in this country?  In this case, the very person charged with protecting our oceans is responsible for poaching and stealing from it.  Where to from here?

In happier news, a whale that was entangled in the ropes of a whelk trap off False Bay was freed thanks to the joint efforts of the South African Whale Disentanglement Network and the National Sea Rescue Institute.  The young whale was trapped to such a degree that it was struggling to reach the surface of the water to breathe. After two of the five ropes that it had become entangled in were cut, it was able to free itself and witnesses later reported seeing it swimming strongly in the vicinity of Murdoch Valley.

Another successful operation assisting one of our sea creatures in distress.

Tina took two hours of my time

I  wasted almost two hours of my Sunday by responding to Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s invitation to a press briefing to discuss her response to the Public Protector’s report: Docked Vessels.

  • 25 minute drive to town
  • 10 minutes to park and get through parliament security
  • 10 minutes wait
  • 2 minute introduction to panel
  • 6 minutes to read press statement in English
  • 6 minutes to read press statement in Afrikaans
  • 7 minutes of largely inadequate question and answer time
  • 30 seconds of shutting books and watching the panel high tailing it out of the room
  • 10 minutes leaving parliament and returning to car
  • 25 minutes drive home

The Minister should note that should she just wish to issue a statement, that the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries’ website would probably be an appropriate place to publish a press statement. Should she wish to ensure that the journalists saw this – she could even go as far as asking her communications team to send it to their list of relevant reporters.

But to call a press conference and essentially thwart any real engagement with the journalists present is a waste of her time; the panels’ time (consisting of legal counsel and senior communications officers from the Department) and our time too.

And so what was the ultimate crux of newsworthy information at the core of her statement?

“I will be asking the North Gauteng High Court to declare that the Report including the findings and recommendations, are reviewed, corrected and/or set aside.”

Any real questions from the floor were shut down and many left unanswered such as:

  • Has she discussed the report with the president?
  • Should the report, in the main, found to be accurate and should she be appointed in her current position after the elections, would she step down?
  • What of the lack of patrol capacity and state of illegal fishing currently continuing in our waters?

I look forward to reading what the reporters from the dailies write in tomorrow’s paper and will continue to follow the progress of this story as it now proceeds into our court system.


Weekly Press Review – 14 March 2014

In a week where the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has dominated every news outlet,  there has been little attention paid to anything else.

However, two heart warming maritime stories did manage to make this weeks headlines.  A dolphin duo, trapped in shallow water in the Langebaan Lagoon, were rescued thanks to the joint efforts of local rescuers and bystanders.

The two dolphins were spotted by kite surfers and, with the assistance of Wildlife Rescue in Kraal Bay as well as the national Sea Rescue Institute Mykonos,  were transported to the open water near Jutton Island.

As both dolphins seemed to be in good health and swam away confidently, experts are satisfied that they will survive the ordeal.

The SPCA also made the news this week after rescuing a young seal pup spotted heading up a canal towards a local kelp processing plant.  Factory employees in the area spotted the pup and called the SPCA who transported it back to Seal Island in a dog crate.  It is suspected that the pup’s mother left the island to gather food and the unattended pup simply swam off.

SPCA inspectors Gareth Petterson and Megan Reid were confident that the seal would be reunited with its mother as each pup has a unique call, which its mother would instinctively recognise.

Weekly Press Review – 7 March 2014

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is back in the news this week with staff of the fisheries branch handing a document to members of parliament complaining of: wasteful expenditure, fraud, nepotism and the scrapping of critical posts.

Urgent intervention has been called for.

To add to the Department’s woes a large group of people from local coastal towns descended on the city this week to hand over an official memorandum addressed to DAFF Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson and director-general Edith Vries, calling for the reinstatement of ousted fisheries chief Desmond Stevens.

Stevens was removed from his position after he was vocal about feeling slighted by the Minister’s comments that there seemed to be “legitimate concerns, either relating to poor administration of the fishing rights allocation process or questionable judgments by the elected officials.” She has called for an audit to investigate the matter.

Those calling for Stevens’ reinstatement described him as accessible and approachable with a “passion about transforming the fishing sector.”

We all know that it is impossible to please all of the people, all of the time, but it would seem that DAFF is unable to please any of the people, any of the time.

On a more somber note, the body Department of Environmental Affairs technician, Johannes Hoffman, who died on Gough Island last week, has been returned to Cape Town. Our condolences to his family and colleagues.

The penguins of the Stony Point Penguin Colony near Betty’s Bay are still being closely monitored this week, after 10 000 litres of diesel was spilled when a fishing trawler ran aground in the area.

About 4,000 penguins and 400 nests of various seabirds were exposed to the spilled diesel and the area was temporarily closed as authorities examined the birds for diesel contamination.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) principal said that fortunately the spilled diesel would eventually evaporate and would not remain an environmental threat forever. That is good news, but does not help those birds already contaminated.