Weekly Press Review – 26 August 2016

The battle against the poaching of South Africa’s perlemoen has been emphasised in the press again this week with the police making two more arrests and confiscating perlemoen with an estimated value of R3.5 million.

According to Pieter van Dalen DA-LP, poachers seem to be using our ocean as their own personal ATM machine. If they are in need of money, they simply make a perlemoen withdrawal.

“Perlemoen poaching is supposed to be a category-A offence all along the coast, but there is no political will to implement this. It is now being done so openly that poachers seem to regard it as their right,” says van Dalen.

Development plans for Saldanha Bay are back in the headlines this week. Transnet and the provincial government say expansion plans for Saldanha Bay’s harbour are going ahead despite the diminished demand for iron and depressed oil prices.

According to Alan Winde, Economic Opportunities MEC, the iron ore prices will have minimal impact for Saldaha Bay. “If demand drops it will affect jobs. But the IDZ is focused around servicing the oil and gas industry. We’ve already had 31 companies sign memorandums of understanding with the IDZ. Not one of them has pulled back,” says Winde.

Also making headlines this week is a statement by world-renowned fisheries expert, Ray Hilborn, challenging South Africa’s marine protected area (MPA) strategy, saying that closing off areas of the ocean is not the solution to overfishing.

Hilborn, professor of aquatic and fishery science at the University of Washington, is due to present a seminar at UCT this week entitled “Fisheries Myths”.  According to Hilborn myths have generated a belief that fisheries management needs to be more conservative and more of the ocean needs to be closed to fishing.

“In the desire to create an oceanic paradise, advocates of MPAs must consider that it is the world’s poorest people who rely on marine fisheries for nutrition and income,” says Hilborn.

Deputy director-general of Environmental Affairs, Monde Mayekiso, said that the department would engage with Hilborn at the debate.

“We have used MPAs in South Africa for a long time and we are aware that MPAs are not the end-all solution. It is just one tool in the management of our resources,” said Mayekiso.

An appeal by Sanccob for donations to help in the rehabilitation of 50 badly oiled penguins has also made headlines this week.

The birds were rescued at the St Croix Island group off Algoa Bay in a joint initiative involving the NSRI, SANParks and Sanccob. It is believed that the birds were oiled due to oil spilled during a ship-to-ship oil transfer. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is investigating.

In the meantime Sanccob has appealed to members of the public to please donate towels and newspapers to aid in the cleaning of the oiled birds. All donations are to be delivered to the Sanccob offices in Jeffeys Bay.

Weekly Press Review – 19 August 2016

Saldanha Bay has made headlines this week celebrating the terminal ‘s milestone of a billion tons of exports.

Most of South Africa’s iron ore exports pass through the terminal, which has the capacity to stockpile 4.5 million tons of ore of 13 different grades.  According to Robert van Rooyen, Saldanha Bay terminal manager, the bulk terminal handles approximately 59 million tons annually, compared to smaller multi-purpose terminals which handle about 7 million tons of iron ore.

“We are delighted with the success of the terminal and commitment that has been shown by the staff and management team, which has seen us go from the terminal’s total handling capacity increasing gradually from 18 million tons per annum in 1976 to where we are today at 60 million tons per annum – an increase of 233 percent.”

It has been a busy week for the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN), as well as the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).  The organisation was called once again called to action to rescue a whale entangled in fishing rope and flotation buoys off Glencairn.  According to the press, SAWDN volunteers, along with members of the NSRI, used disentanglement equipment to free the 7.5m juvenile humpback whale.

According to SAWDN head Michael Meyer the whale appeared to be healthy.

“All indications are that the animal has survived and we are satisfied that the operation has been successful,” said Meyer.

In a separate incident, the NSRI and the South African Stranding Network (SASN) were called to rescue a 2.5m dolphin stranded at Jeffey’s Bay. According to the press the dolphin was successfully returned to the ocean.

These two incidents once again remind us that we need to be mindful of the impact that our marine activities have on the wildlife in our oceans.  Fishing ropes and buoys remain a problem, but even the shark nets designed to protect swimmers often result in the deaths of dolphin, turtles and otters that get caught in them.

A balance needs to be found between using our oceans and abusing our oceans.


Weekly Press Review – 12 August 2016

The three suspects arrested in connection with the break in and theft of various weapons and hand grenades from the Simon’s Town naval base on 23 June appeared in court this week.

According to the press, although the State has a strong case against the three, the concern remains as to why the weapons were stolen, particularly around election time.

A possibility is that the suspects were intending to sell the weapons.  It is now imperative that it is established to whom and for what purpose they intended to sell the weapons.

Also making headlines this week was the arrest of two men at the Peka Bridge border with Lesotho in possession of abalone and stolen wine.

The arrest was made after officers inspected the suspects car.  “The members found two sealed plastic bags containing dry abalone weighing 1,75kg with a street value of approximately R8650.”

The suspects will appear before the Ficksburg Magistrate’s Court.

Another trapped whale has been freed after becoming entangled in fishing rope and floatation buoys approximately 500  metres off-shore Cape Point.

According to the press, the South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) described  the marathon 2-day rescue operation as the most difficult disentanglement operation to date.

“The whale had at least five ropes entangled around the flukes and tail and the rope was twisted and entangled into a bird’s nest,” said Mike Meyer, SAWDN and environmental affairs oceans and coast head.

Eventually the whale was cut free and appeared strong and healthy as it swam off.


Weekly Press Review – 29 July 2016

An incident of theft at the SA Navy base has made headlines this week. The break-in took place at the armament depot over the weekend and military equipment was stolen, including several Uzi machine guns, an R1 rifle, ammunition and hand grenades.

Military expert Helmoed Heitman believes the theft was either an inside job or security at the navy base was simply not up to standard.

“Either the security was much weaker than it should have been, or there was involvement by one or more people within the navy. This is serious and demands serious follow-up,” said Heitman.

The Hawks have already arrested two men in connection with the theft who will appear in court on Monday. Some of the weapons have been recovered but according to Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, the investigation will only be successful if all the stolen goods are recovered and all those involved are arrested.

Weekly Press Review – 22 July 2016

The dire situation facing the South African great white shark has made headlines this week. According to researcher Sara Andreotti from the department of botany and zoology at Stellenbosch University, if the government doesn’t soon address import and export regulations, the great white shark is heading for extinction.

According to Andreotti there are only between 353 and 522 great white sharks left in South African waters. The primary cause of the decline? Poaching for shark jaws which can sell for up to $1 million, as well as fins for fin soup, a delicacy in parts of Asia.

“The numbers in South African are extremely low. If the situation stays the same, South Africa’s great white sharks are heading for possible extinction,” says Andreotti, adding that it is illegal to catch great white sharks as they are a protected species.

Andreotti said that the Environmental Affairs Ministry must improve the regulations protecting and managing fish species.

“The survival of South Africa’s white shark population and the ecological interactions of the coastline will be seriously compromised if urgent management measures to prevent the decline are not put in place,” says Andreotti

Weekly Press Review – 15 July 2016

The attacks on South Africa’s endangered African penguin by a leopard in the Betty’s Bay area have made headlines over the last few weeks.

These attacks are obviously not good news for conservationists who are working hard in an attempt to protect African penguins in the area as numbers continue to dwindle.  Stoney Point in Betty’s Bay is one of the largest breeding colonies in the Western Cape and also one of the most successful, which makes these attacks even more of a setback.

Despite this according to the press this week SANCCOB have been brought in to assist with rescuing some of the injured birds and eggs that have been left exposed after adult birds were killed.  Five eggs were brought to SANCCOB and two have now hatched successfully.  On another happy note one small penguin chick also survived the attack and is being cared for by SANCCOB staff.  He is getting stronger by the day.

Weekly Press Review – 8 July 2016

The SA Agulhas II is back in the headlines this week with a group of post-graduate students from 15 universities across South Africa joining the crew of the research vessel.

The 41 students will be studying aboard the vessel until 15 July.  Their areas of focus will include:  dynamics of the ocean, marine instrumentation, life in the sea and data analysis, all with a specific focus on the Agulhas Current.

“SEA-mester” is South Africa’s first dedicated class afloat and aims to introduce marine sciences as an applied and cross-disciplinary field to students who have shown an interest in these fields.

On board, the students will be able to combine theoretical classroom learning and the application of this knowledge through ship-based, hands-on research, while working alongside specialist scientists in internationally relevant research activities.

The SEA-mester cruise will provide valuable ocean data to better understand the role of the Agulhas Current in a global ocean and provide scientific background for SEA-mester to engage with.

Professor Isabelle Ansorge of the University of Cape Town (UCT) is directing the programme with the assistance of Tahlia Henry, a former Cape Peninsula University of Technology student who is the SEA-mester coordinator.

The voyage is sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology.