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 – 4 March 2016

The big maritime news this week is the announcement of plans to create a new 70,000km2 network of marine protected areas.

According to the press the plans include:

  • expansion of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s sea boundaries in Kwazulu-Natal,
  • a new protected area off the Thukela River,
  • a new shark and fish sanctuary off the Protea Banks on the south coast and
  • expansion of the Aliwal Shoal protected area.

Details of the new marine protected areas (MPAs) have been published in a 336-page notice in the government gazette by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Although the declaration of these new expanded MPAs should be celebrated, it is important to note that they are in response to the present situation of collapsed sea fish stocks and increasing exploitation of oceans worldwide.

Conservation group WWF’s response to the announcement has been positive, but they have cautioned that it is essential to ensure that there is adequate budget, staff and enforcement capacity to ensure the proper running of these protected areas.

Zolile Nqayi, Environment Affairs spokesman, said that the new proposed MPAs had been identified through the presidential project Operation Phakisa.

Weekly Press Review – 12 February 2016

The SA Agulhas II has made headlines this week with its return to South African waters.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) welcomed back the research team, consisting of international scientists and members of the CSIR, after their latest three-month research mission to Antarctica.

DEA spokesperson, Zolile Nqayi, said, “The teams who participate in the research are different each time, conducting different types of research.  Gough Islands, in the South Atlantic Ocean, will be the next expedition with weather-related research.  It is scheduled for March.”

The announcement by Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, that 22 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are in the pipeline along the South African coastline also made headlines this week.

The proposed area covers a massive 70,000 km² and if all 22 of the proposed areas are declared Marine Protected Areas, the result will be that just over five percent of South Africa’s ocean will be protected, a vast improvement on the 0.5 percent of marine ecosystems that are presently protected by existing MRAs.

The aim behind these protected areas is to promote biodiversity, restore fishing balances, promote tourism and serve as areas to support scientific research.

Weekly Press Review – 4 December 2015

Yet another arrest has been made in connection with abalone poaching.  According to the press a 27-year-old man was found in possession of approximately R2 million worth of abalone after he was pulled over by the K9 Unit who were conducting patrols in the Gordon’s Bay area.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) were on the scene and counted 11,857 units of shucked abalone.

Amid much outcry Japan has resumed its research whaling season.  According to the press Japan aims to catch more than 300 whales as part of a scientific research programme before the end of the hunt next year.

Japan seems to have found a loophole in the whaling moratorium which prohibits the hunting of whales, by labelling the hunts as scientific.  The move has been condemned by both the USA and Australia, as well as various environmental groups worldwide.

According to the press the government has announced that they will allow fishing in parts of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area.  The aim behind the programme is to help rejuvenate heavily exploited fish stocks along the South African coast.

The response to the news has been dramatically polarised.  Local fishermen are delighted.  They claim that they were never consulted when the area was proclaimed a marine protected area and have a historical right to fish there.

Henrico Bruiners, chairman of the Tsitsikamma Angling Forum welcomed the decision saying that it is done from a humanitarian point of view, otherwise people have to travel up to 60km in order to fish.

Marine scientists, however, feel that the decision by the Department of Environmental Affairs is a recipe for disaster and will “open up the heart of a protected area to exploitation.”

UCT marine scientist Colin Attwood said that this kind of proposal completely negated the point of having a marine protected area.

SANParks spokesperson, Nandi Mgwadlamba has invited public comment, but in the meantime fishing will commence in the area on December, 15 as a pilot project.

Weekly Press Review – 2 October 2015

The tragedy aboard the MFV Lincoln which ran into trouble near False Bay resulting in the deaths of 11 fishermen received a lot of coverage in the press this week.  The search for the remaining missing crew member continues.

According to survivor Peter Julies, the weather was extremely turbulent and the boat started taking water on the port side.  Soon the boat was leaning completely to the one side.

“I jumped from the starboard side into the freezing water.  Soon I could not feel my legs.  The rain was pelting and the gale-force wind had no mercy.  Fortunately help did not take too long.  But it was too late for some of my friends.”

The Financial Director of Viking Fishing, who own the vessel, said that their first priority was to support the families of those who lost loved ones.

The vessel has been towed to Cape Town harbour and SAMSA is investigating the incident.

History was made this week with the vessel, the Cape Orchid, being the first merchant vessel to register in South Africa since 1985.

Tsietsi Mokhele, SAMSA chief executive said, “About 98 percent of the country’s internationally bound trade is carried by ships and at least R160bn a year is paid for shipping services to foreign owners and operators.”

The Department of Transport said that the Cape Orchid “would be a boost to our maritime economy.”

According to the press many residents from Walker Bay are expressing their concern about mother and baby whales being harassed by over eager onlookers entering the bay during the whale breeding season and disturbing the mammals.

The question has been raised as to why the Department of Environmental Affairs is not monitoring whale-watching tourism boats and other vessels in the bay.  Residents are saying that complaints to government, the local authority and the tourism body are simply receiving no response.

Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coasts spokesperson Zolile Nqayi confirmed that Walker Bay was in fact a sanctuary and that no unauthorised boats were allowed in the bay during whale season.

He appealed to the public to report any incidents of boats getting to close to the whales to the department.

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 – 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 – 26 June 2015

The Lucky Star fishmeal factory in Hout Bay is causing a stink this week.  The press reported that a meeting scheduled to discuss the smell of rotting fish emanating from the factory was cancelled at the last moment.

Lucky Star is a subsidiary of the Oceana group and the meeting between the company and the City’s mayoral committee was set to discuss mitigation measures by the factory to reduce air pollution.

Bulelwa Nombutuma, spokesperson for Oceana, said that the meeting did not take place as one of their council members was not available.

Kiara Worth, chairperson for the air pollution portfolio for the Hout Bay Residents Ratepayers Association said that the smell had been affecting schools, churches and homes as well as the well-being of residents in the area for over 20 years.

No indication has been given as to when, or if, the meeting will be re-scheduled.

From air pollution to water pollution.  It was reported in the press this week that a group of 160 civic organisations have urged the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to refuse the City of Cape Town’s application to continue pumping raw sewerage into the Atlantic, unless the City is able to come up with a plan to phase out sewerage-to-sea outfalls.

Unlike other areas in the city where sewerage is treated before it is pumped into the ocean, at the three areas in question, Hout Bay, Camps Bay and Green Point, the sewerage being pumped into the ocean has not been treated.

The City has responded by saying that it is simply too expensive to first pump the sewerage to the treatment plant at Athlone, and that at present there is no other viable alternative.

The Greater Cape Town Alliance has responded by saying that the time has come for new, innovative and environmentally friendly solutions for sewage disposal.

With the renewed focus on the blue economy and the investment in our oceans as the providers of food and the very air that we breathe, surely step one would be to start to address this kind  of problem and call on our young scientists to come up with financially viable solutions that could be implemented sooner rather than later.

Weekly Press Review – 15 May 2015

Eskom power outages are affecting a fish processing facility in Philippi the press reports this week.  Viking Fishing is one of nine Philippi industries who were without power for several days after Eskom’s repair teams were chased away by people apparently trying to protect their illegal electricity connections in the Marikana informal settlement nearby.

Tim Reddell of Viking Fishing said that his company had been forced to truck fish into the city in an attempt to keep it frozen.  The problem seems to be that thieves took advantage of load shedding on Saturday and stole the main supply cable.

“I don’t think people realise how bad this whole power thing is.  We can manage the two-hour load shedding, but not 48 hours.

“So what must I do?  I have 256 people employed here, must I send them all home?  We put the factory here so that we could be close to where the staff live, but now I am starting to question that idea,” said Reddell.

Xolani Joja, Marikana community leader, said that he had recently been out of the province and was, therefore, not aware of the matter.

According to the press, a group of Orcas in False Bay are being mobbed by over-enthusiastic sightseers, causing unnecessary stress to the animals.

People are using groups of powers boats and jetskis in an attempt to get as close as possible to these beautiful creatures.

Word travels fast via social media when the Orcas are in the area and loads of people enter the water, boxing in the animals and placing them, as well as the dolphins in the area, in an unnecessarily stressful situation.

The law states that boats may not get within 300 metres of any whale, however, there is a loophole in this case as Orcas are categorised as dolphins and not whales and the law, therefore, technically, does not apply.

Environmental Affairs Department spokesman, Zolile Nqayi said that the department was looking at ways to address these compliance issues and that this would most likely have to take the form of amendments to the existing legislation.

Three new vessels to be launched in National Marine Week

National Marine Week kicked off in Cape Town this morning when the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Minister Edna Molewa, addressed a small audience of learners, invited guests and media. It was the first in a number of maritime-related functions in our calendar this week that includes the launch of three new vessels in Durban and Cape Town.

  • On Wednesday Sea Harvest will name their newly acquired R130 million vessel, the Atlantic Peace where Chairman Fred Roberston and CEO Felix Ratheb will officiate the proceedings.
  • Nautic Africa launches their 35 m Sentinal on Thursday in the Cape  Town harbour and invited guests will be treated to a little spin in the multi-role crew and patrol vessels.
  • Smit Amandla Marine will launch the latest addition to their fleet in Durban on Thursday.  The Sibanye linerunner has been in production at the SA Shipyards facility and will receive a formal welcome.

That’s a lot of nautical flavour for a week that is aptly named and perhaps speaks to the pronouncements that the government is making around the blue economy. Minister Molewa touched on the importance of Operation Phakisa this morning too – and affirmed that the results of the Ocean Lab deliberations held in Durban recently will be announced shortly.

She added that the Department of Environmental Affairs has been tasked to lead the blue economy initiative and that the focus will be on sustainable economic and social development.

We are still collecting feedback from the industry on Operation Phakisa. <CLICK HERE> To complete our quick survey on the initiative.