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.”

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.

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.

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

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.