Weekly Press Review – 23 October 2015

While the student protests have dominated the South African newspapers, only one small maritime headline managed to surface.

Last week five suspected perlemoen poachers were trapped within the marine protected area of Bird Island in Port Elizabeth.  Three were arrested, but the other two managed to elude the police.

This week a fourth suspect was arrested and according to Police Captain Johan Rheeder will appear in court shortly facing charges under the Environmental Act, as well as possible charges of malicious damage to property as the suspects doused the park rangers boat with petrol in an attempt to secure their escape.

Weekly Press Review – 11 September 2015

The SA Navy’s SAS Umhloti has a new commander.  The press has reported that Lieutenant-Commander Zimasa Mabela took command of the mine counter measures vessel in Simon’s Town this week and is the first black African woman to command a navy vessel.

Commander Brian Short, former commander of the vessel handed over command to Mabela in a ceremony also held in Simon’s Town this week.

Mabela was born in the Eastern Cape and joined the navy in 1999.  In 2004 she completed the Military Training for Officers, followed by the Combat Officer qualifying course and she joined the SAS Isandwana in 2005.

“I remember how excited I was when I first got accepted to be part of the navy.  I am proud to be the first black African woman to command a naval vessel.  But more than the title, I want to be an example to my crew. I want to be judged on my ability to command, and not my gender,” said Mabela.

The press has reported on another whale rescue mission which took place off Cape Point this week.

The SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) was called to the scene and found that the whale has become entangled in four ropes apparently anchored to traps on the seabed.

After a long struggle the team, along with the assistance of the fishing vessel Puffin which came to assist, the whale was freed.

Mike Meyer, of the Department of Environmental Affairs said, “The whale appeared healthy and swam away strongly and we are confident that this operation has been a huge success.”

This is the third whale to be caught in octopus traps in False Bay.

Nan Rice, head of the Dolphin Action and Protection Group and a founder member of the SAWDN said, “We will have to sit down and talk about this. There are going to be more entanglements because there are more whales around, especially humpbacks, which breed every second year.”

It is estimated that an average of 308,000 whales and dolphins are killed each year when they become entangled in fishing gear or marine waste.

Weekly Press Review – 5 December 2014

Recreational deep-sea fishermen celebrated a victory in the press this week with the Pretoria high court advising the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, to reconsider a decision to place a total ban on the catching of red steenbras.

Two years ago red steenbras was placed on the prohibited list, creating a ban on catching.  The Border Deep Sea Angling Association and two other anglers challenged this ban.

The judge ruled in favour of recreational fishermen, saying, “To reach a decision that a total ban is necessary, there must be research indicating that despite the imposed bag limit and closed season, the red steenbras numbers are still declining.  There is simply no such information.”

Concern over rising sea levels has made headlines once again with researchers from the University of California stating that analysis has revealed that the fastest melting part of Antarctica has tripled over the past decade.

Research shows that the melting seems to be speeding up and is irreversible.  The study is the first of its kind, using four measurement techniques to generate and estimate the rate of loss over two decades.

Lead author, Tyler Utterley of UCI said, “Previous studies had suggested this region started to change very dramatically since 1990s.  We wanted to see how different techniques compared.  The remarkable agreement among the techniques gave us confidence we are getting this right.”

The results were released at a global warming conference in Peru.

Weekly Press Review – 25 October 2013

South Africa has made headlines this week as one of the first countries to sign the Minamata Convention. The convention is a new global treaty aimed at phasing out mercury from a wide variety of industrial and household products.

Thus far, 92 countries have signed the treaty which could take another two years to be ratified and ultimately enter into force.

The treaty is named after the Japanese industrial town, Minamata, where thousands of people were poisoned during the 1950s and 1960s by eating fish polluted by the local chemical plant.

It is good to see South Africa leading the charge against the further pollution of our oceans.

The luxury liner, Titanic has made the news again this week over 100 years after its fatal final voyage. To once again prove that people’s fascination with the ill-fated vessel has not waned, a violin that was being played as the ship went down has sold for an unprecedented R1.42bn at a British auction over the weekend.

The violin in question was played by band leader Wallace Hartley. The band continued to play as the ship was sinking in an attempt to calm the passengers. All of the band members died and it is believed that Hartley’s body was discovered with the violin still strapped to his body.

A very sad piece of memorabilia for somebody’s collection.

Identifying maritime leaders

Identifying maritime leaders

Having attended an interesting workshop on maritime leadership as part of the Third International Conference on Strategic Theory; we have decided to try and identify our current and future maritime leaders by asking you to let us know who you feel is championing the maritime agenda in South Africa.

maritime leaders

Weekly Press Review – 24 August 2012

The hate-hate relationship between Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and DA fisheries spokesman Pieter van Dalen has once again be covered in the press this week; with the names of Duncan Hindle, the Minister’s special adviser and Shaheen Moolla of Feike also being thrown into the mix.

All the name calling and petty arguing has somewhat detracted from the fact that the long awaited public protector’s report on the marine patrol tender has been delayed. This is apparently due to the fact that the inquiry has been extended.

Although the delay is disappointing, as it is important to get answers and some kind of closure to the issues, it is also well worth waiting for the results of the enquiry so that all discussion and debate can at least be FACT BASED and not just finger pointing and name calling like badly behaved childern on a playground.

After a long and extremely respectable silence, Smit Amandla Marine has chosen this week to speak. In a statement Smit, widely regarded as the ‘whistle-blower’, has been subjected to months of ‘slanderous unsubstantiated claims about our integrity and business practices.’

Smit has now gone on record stating that they are not a fishing company and nor are they being investigated by the Hawks or any other state authority regarding their management of the Fisheries Department’s research and patrol vessels.

They have gone even further by offering their full co-operation and assistance with any investigation into their business operations – past or present.

This magazine is in the process of organising an actual face-to-face debate between Minister Tina Joemat Pettersson and Pieter van Dalen which will allow the two the opportunity to answer the really important questions in a controlled environment and hopefully get some real answers.

After many years of legal wrangling, the name Arnold Bengis is back in the news this week. After being accused of poaching large quantities of SA rock lobster and Patagonia toothfish, importing them illegally into the US and then selling them at a huge profit, a US judge has ordered Bengis and his son, who was also involved, to pay a record $54.9 million (R450m) in restitution to South Africa.

Marius Diemont, legal representative for SA, said this is ‘ a significant precedent that shows that authorities will go to great lengths to bring people who deal in illegal fish to justice.’

The case against Hout Bay Fishing, headed by Bengis, which started in 2001, is still to be finalised.

Weekly Press Review – 25 June 2012

Am I the only one experiencing a strange sense of deja vu as the Eihatsu Maru becomes the latest ship to be abandoned by its owners and financiers after experiencing trouble in our waters and may have to be sold in order to recoup the costs of its salvage operation – an estimated R7 million at this point (excluding harbour fees).

Dave Colly of SAMSA is obviously very unhappy about the situation as not only is there the problem of disposing of the ship if the owners are not forthcoming with any money, but also its’ cargo – 70 tons of frozen tuna. It would appear that South Africa is going to take a hit financially with the selling of the fish which, according to press reports, is regarded as ‘too tainted by scandal’ for the Japanese market.

Why are the owners of these ships allowed to get away with washing their hands of the responsibility of their vessels at the first sign of trouble or, more accurately, expense? And what can South Africa do to protect itself from continually being forced to bail out these vessels in distress?

Newspaper articles report that the Panos Earth (another vessel abandoned in our waters) has now been sold at judicial auction to a Chinese company for $2.17 million (about R22.3m), unfortunately well below what it is actually worth. Ed Greiner, the maritime lawyer who acted for salvors Smit Amandla Marine and Smit Marine SA, was quoted in the press as saying of the creditors that ‘certain people will be paid in full, certain people will be paid pro rata and certain people will not be paid at all.’ Too bad if you are in the latter catagory.

In other news, it would seem that the powers that be have finally woken up and are on track to reintroduce the lapsed system of having independent observers on board fishing vessels in an attempt to ensure that South Africa does not lose its certification with the Marine Stewardship Council, as well as its’ lucrative overseas markets.

Johan Augustyn of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) stated that ‘it was never a policy decision not to have the observer programme, it was simply a result of financial and bureaucratic problems’ and that the observer programme would hopefully be reintroduced within the year.

Surely DAFF can see that it is time to step up and get this done, and the sooner the better? South Africa’s place – and name – in the market is at stake.

A 1950’s tug boat left to rot in the harbour at the V&A Waterfront has been given a second lease on life in the unlikely form of a group of farmers from a Tractor and Engine club in Villiersdorp.

If you missed the report in the Cape Times, it seems that Keith Wetmore and his friend Andy Selfe approached the club about the possibility of saving the tug’s engines, but the club decided it would prefer to save the entire boat.

The tug, the Alwyn Vintcent, will undertake a rather long and strange journey, via Hopefield, Malmesbury, Tulbach and Worcester, to Villiersdorp and ultimately the Theewaterskloof Dam, where it is hoped that it will eventually be made into a tourist attraction.

The tug, one of the last coal-fired steam vessels, was built in Venice in 1958 and worked in Mossel Bay from 1959 – 1983. Messages from heritage enthusiasts around the world have started to pour in.

Good luck to this group of farmers from Villiersdorp and the next time you are in the area, why not pop by and spend a little time with the Alwyn Vintcent.

But perhaps, the most uplifting news from last week was the release of the South African couple who spent 20 months in the captivity of Somali pirates. Latest reports suggest that the couple, Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz, will be home in just a few short days.