Missing out on a celebration

Not much hype seems to have been generated around the official start of the African Maritime Decade which is due to kick off tomorrow. The only nod in this direction seems to be happening at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa where a “two-day” meeting got underway today.

Today’s schedule in Ethiopia was to include a meeting of the AU Strategic Task Force on the 2050 AIM-Strategy. What should have been an ideal platform to review and debate the strategy, however, was cancelled at the beginning of July.

The schedule for the day therefore now only starts at 5pm and includes a panel discussion followed by an official dinner at 7:30pm.

Tomorrow will see the official launch of the Decade of Africa Seas and Oceans and the Celebration of the African Day of Seas and Oceans – essentially wrapping up an event that has sought to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders from across the continent by 1:30 pm tomorrow.

On a country-by-country basis nothing seems to be planned.

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Weekly Press Review – 24 July 2015

The sardines are back! The good news for fishermen was covered in the press this week as large catches of sardines along Durban’s beach front caused much excitement.

For more than five years sardine catches have been unsuccessful in the region, but this week large numbers of sardines were spotted along the South Coast, as fishermen scoured the waters between Blue Lagoon and uShaka Beach.

Seasoned fisherman, Tony Outar Moon, said, “The sardines were in deeper waters in the past few years.  It is hard to predict where they will show up next.”

The SA Agulhas II has embarked on its latest research expedition.  According to the press this week the vessel left Cape Town harbour on Tuesday to carry out a 25-day research expedition in the Southern Ocean.  The research will be taking place in three main research areas:  the third Southern Ocean Seasonal Cycle Experiment, South Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation South Africa and the Southern Ocean Trace Metal and Bio Geochemistry.

There has been a focus in the press this week on the uncertain future of the South African penguin.  Although there has been some stabilisation in bird numbers, this is no reason to allow for complacency.

According to Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) spokesman, Zolile Nqayi, the department has set several goals to ensure the future of the African penguin.  These include ensuring that the birds continue to be regarded as a protected species and the department is looking into the possibility of establishing new bird colonies in areas where there is more protection and more food readily available.

Weekly Press Review – 17 July 2015

Shark researchers in the US on a quest for more humane solutions to protect ocean users from sharks have made a real breakthrough according to the press this week:  education and a bit of common sense.

The research done by researchers at Stanford University has found that the solution does not need to be as extreme as culling sharks.  Simply providing better information to bathers about the risk of shark attacks should be enough.

Shark researcher, Francesco Ferretti, said, “Just like we check the weather before going boating, or the surf forecast before going surfing, getting information about the risk of encountering large predators can become a normal precaution we take before going into the ocean.”

Information for bathers to consider would be the season, the time of day and the types of activities taking place in the water.  For example, spear fishing is an activity with added risk.

The KZN Sharks Board has responded by saying that in South African waters the problem lies in the fact that the great white shark is not the only problem species in the area. The behaviour and habits of Zambezi and tiger sharks also need to be considered.

For now our shark nets remain in place, but surely there is a lot to be said for just using your common sense when interacting with the ocean environment, or any other environment for that matter..

Also covered in the press this week is the signing of an agreement by ambassadors from the US, Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark and other Arctic nations barring their fishing fleets from fast-thawing sea areas around the North Pole.

The agreement was reached in response to the ever increasing threat of global warming which is resulting in the melting of sea ice in the central Arctic Ocean and impacting on marine life in the immediate area and beyond.

Very little is known about this area, but the agreement is seen as a pre-emptive strike.  The deal  “will prevent a problem from arising ahead of time,” said David Balton, US deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and fisheries.

Scott Highleyman, director of international Arctic  affairs at the Pew Charitable Trusts environmental group said, “It’s hugely encouraging.  It’s hard to get governments’ attention for problems that haven’t occurred yet.”

The agreement also called for more research into Arctic marine resources.

Weekly Press Review – 10 July 2015

It comes as no surprise that there is still much unhappiness around the 2015/16 fishing rights allocation process.  The press has reported this week that both small scale and commercial fishermen have criticised the draft fishing rights allocation as unfair.

This week officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) held the second of 31 public consultation meetings.

The current draft policy proposes a 26 percent fee increase for all sectors.  Full time commercial fishermen, Armin Weinar was quoted as saying:  “They say they want to be fair to all applicants.  Then at the same time they want to everybody judged against the same criteria by no longer splitting the applicants up between existing rights holders and new entrants.”

Weinar also added that the industry was close to his heart and that he is saddened to see resources dwindle so dangerously.

The press has also covered the rescue of a hump back whale that became entangled in ropes and bouys off Cape Point earlier this week.  The research vessel the Ellen Khuzwayo was carrying out research in  the area and the whale became in tangled in the ropes and bouys being used for the research.  The South African Whale Disentanglement Network was alerted and after a 40 minute operation the whale was freed and despite some damage to its stock tail seemed to be strong and healthy.

Operation Phakisa has made headlines again this week with a seminar in London attended by Transport Deputy Minister Sindiswe Chikunga to promote investment in South Africa’s oceans economy.

In her address at the conference which took place at South Africa House in London the minister said that the conference displayed the ethos of Operation Phakisa which was to accelerate implementation of government’s strategic development programmes.

Research shows that South Africa’s ocean economy has the potential to contribute R180 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create about a million jobs.

The purpose of Chikunga’s visit to London has been to share information on the recent developments South Africa has achieved in growing the oceans economy.

“We need potential partners on a win-win basis to support South Africa’s oceans economy strategy. We extend an open invitation to investors to visit South Africa to further explore vast investment opportunities,” the minister said.

Weekly Press Review – 3 July 2015

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has made headlines again this week with commercial abalone quota holders hitting out at the department’s new draft policies for long-term quota allocations.

Abalone SA described the new draft policy as “a superficial copy and paste job”, leaving quota holders with no choice, but to “reject the entire process”.

More criticism was launched regarding the public meetings held around the coast to discuss key concerns.  Each meeting was scheduled to be only two hours in length, with all 11 sectors represented at each meeting, making it impossible for concerned quota holders to have their say.  Most meetings were scheduled after the deadline for public comment anyway, making them effectively null and void.

As of yet, department spokesperson Carol Moses has offered no comment.

There has been surprising reactions in the press to complaints by members of Fresh Air for Hout Bay and other Hout Bay residents regarding the smell of fish emanating from the Oceana fish factory in the area.

Roscoe Jacobs, also a resident of Hout Bay, and a member of the Hout Bay Civic Association, has been quoted in the press as saying that the “unbearable smell” from the factory, also represents the smell of money.  The factory employs 226 workers, most of whom come from the Hout Bay area.   Without the factory, those individuals would not be able to make a living and put food on the table for their families.  He feels that those doing the complaining were well aware of the factory when they moved into the area.

It would seem that there are always two sides to every story and that the inconvenience of a bad smell surely does not compare to losing the chance to earn a living and provide for your family.