Weekly Press Review – 18 September 2017

The partial sinking of the chartered Robben Island ferry, Thandi, on Friday afternoon has made headlines this week.  According to the press, the vessel began taking on water while returning from the island and the 68 passengers and crew on board had to be rescued.

Senior manager of ferry operations at the Robben Island Museum (RIM), Sandresan Thandroyan, said, “Robben Island Museum is conducting its own internal investigation. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) will also be conducting an investigation. RIM will support them throughout the process.”

The vessel has since been towed to Murrays Bay Harbour and stabilised.

Disgruntled fishers stormed the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) offices on the foreshore this week demanding the immediate suspension of the West Coast Rock Lobster fishing rights allocation process.

According to the press, local fishers want the West Coast Rock Lobster offshore allocations shifted from big companies to near shore and small-scale fishers.

The group, representing 10 fishing organisations, including the Hout Bay Fishers Community Trust, Kleinmond Integrated Fishing Forum and Mitchells Plain Fishing Forum, also demanded an immediate meeting with Minister Senzeni Zokwana and other senior officials to address the challenges faced by fishing communities in the area.

Premier Food and Fishing has changed its name to Premier Fishing and Brands Limited.

Chief executive Samir Saban said, “The name change ushers in a new and exciting era for the company following its successful listing earlier this year.”

As part of the International Coastal Clean-up Day started in 1986, the Two Oceans Aquarium invited Capetonians to be part of the 12 million volunteers worldwide and spend two hours picking up litter on Milnerton beach this Saturday.

According to the press, the event included a puppet show for children after the clean-up and volunteers were asked to download the Clean Swell app allowing them to become citizen scientists by tracking their clean-up achievements and at the same time provide valuable data to the Ocean Conservancy’s research data.

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Weekly Press Review – 11 July 2017

Viking Fishing’s court battle against the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) regarding fishing rights in the Western Cape has been dealt a blow.

According to the press, the Western Cape High Court has decided that the company’s interdict against the department should not be made final. This after the fishing group won the first round of a battle after the court ruled in favour of its interdict against new fishing rights in January; calling a halt to the department’s latest allocation of fishing rights.

Viking has not given up, stating that the court’s ruling was not unanimous and that one in three presiding judges had handed down a dissenting judgment.

Ghana has made headlines this week with the country sending its first satellite into orbit.

According to the press the satellite, launched from the International Space Station, was developed by students at the All Nations University in Koforidau and will be used to monitor Ghana’s coastline for mapping purposes.

Taking place at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown at present is Sabamnye Nomendi, a creative interdisciplinary and multimedia interpretation of the sinking of the SS Mendi.

The troop ship sank 100 years ago off the Isle of Wight, resulting in the deaths of more than 600 black South African soldiers.

According to the press, Sabamnye Nomendi, conceptualised and curated by Mandla Mbothwe, goes beyond the theatre walls and through song, dance, pictures, film and multimedia takes the audience through this very sad story.

Sabamnye Nomendi is based on a poem by SEK Mqhayi about the sinking of the vessel.

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.

Weekly Press Review – 4 July 2014

The re-allocation of fishing rights for fisheries for next year is back in the news this week.  MPs were informed this week that the process, with a combined value of R1.5 million, is way behind schedule.

The portfolio committee has been urged to take an active role in getting the process back on track.  Joseph Ginindza, parliamentary researcher, told the committee that he was “trying not to sound alarmist”, but said that there is very little time available for the complex assessment process that needs to take place  before any fishing rights can be awarded for next year.

“There are people whose livelihoods depend on rights being allocated in time.  If these people can’t fish, there is no income.  It is a matter of urgency,” said Ginindza.

A 55-year-old sailor, Anthony Smith, made the news this week after running his yacht aground on Misty Cliffs beach between Kommetjie and Cape Point.  The sailor, who was taken to the Kommetjie Sea Rescue Base, was cold, but uninjured.  The Kommetjie community rallied around to assist.  Smith was offered a shower at the base, his clothes were dried by Kommetjie Laundry and he was brought food by the owners of the Lighthouse Pub and Grill.

It appears that his yacht will be stranded on the beach for a while due to the bad weather conditions in the region, but it will be up to Smith to source a salvage company to help with the removal of the yacht.

Weekly Press Review – 16 May 2014

It has been a long time coming, but Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has finally stepped up to the plate and decided to scrap the entire fishing rights allocation process of 2013 (FRAP 2013).

This comes after an independent audit found that the Fishing Department’s fishing rights allocation process was fatally flawed and would not stand up to a court challenge.

“To pre-empt further legal challenges, I intend to set aside the entire FRAP 2013 process, including all decisions and outcomes.  I have directed that the requisite legal steps be initiated for this to happen.”

This is the first time in South African history that a fishing rights allocation process has ever been scrapped.

So, it is back to the drawing board for the fisheries department.  Let us hope that a viable solution can be found as soon as possible.

The Minister is also in the news this week as she sets a deadline to receive final reports from both officials and Foodcorp, in connection with R50 million worth of fishing quotas that were allegedly awarded to two companies without due public process. Thereafter the minister will refer the issue to the public protector and the Special Investigating Unit.

Minister Joemat-Pettersson said, “I have proved throughout my term that I’m committed to clean governance and will not tolerate any decisions or transactions which undermine this.”

It will be interesting to see the results of this investigation and at whose feet the responsibility will ultimately fall.

This week the company NTP Logistics asked local authorities for permission to dock its ship, carrying material used to make nuclear fuel, in South African harbours.

The substance in question is known as yellowcake, or uranium oxide and is enriched to make fuel for nuclear power stations.  If the substance is further enriched it can be used to make nuclear weapons.

Anti-nuclear groups have objected in writing to the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) in response to advertisements placed in Eastern Cape newspapers by the company announcing the application and calling for objections to its request to dock the ship.

It is not government policy to allow radioactive waste into South Africa.

The press has reported that nets set up at the southern corner of Fish Hoek beach in April last year as a pilot project, may become a permanent feature.

Sarah Waries, project manager of Shark Spotters says that the response from the public has been extremely positive, especially from parents of small children, all saying that they are far more comfortable swimming at the beach with their families with the nets in place.

The city was granted a research permit by DAFF and the Department of Environmental affairs to carry out the trial and it is these departments that will decide whether the nets will become a permanent feature or not.

These nets are different form those used elsewhere in the country which are designed to trap and kill sharks.  These are exclusion nets and are designed to keep sharks out, but not actually trap them

It would be a great coup for environmentalists if the nets became not only a permanent feature along the beaches at Fish Hoek, but were also implemented along the beaches of all of South Africa’s coasts.  And taking it a step further; perhaps even provide an environmentally friendly alternate to shark nets being used worldwide – especially in Australia, where a shark culling programme is being used in an attempt to protect beach goers from possible shark attacks.

Simon’s Town welcomed the SAS Spioenkop home this week amid much fanfare.  The vessel returned after a three-and-a-half month visit to the Mozambique Channel where she took part in Operation Copper – working with the Mozambican fleet against piracy.

Maritime historians from around the world will be delighted with the news of the possible findings of two well-known sunken vessels.  US marine archaeologists have announced that they believe they have discovered the remains of a sunken Civil War-era ship.  The steamship, Planter, was commandeered by a group of African-American slaves in Charleston to sail to freedom nearly 152 years ago, on May 13, 1862. The ship later sank off the South Carolina Coast.

Expeditions to find the ship began in 2010 and despite the find, due to the fact that the vessel is buried, excavation will probably be too expensive and she will remain where she is.

Equally as exciting, a ship wreck discovered off the coast of Haiti may be the remains of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Christopher Columbus from his first voyage to the America’s.

“All geographical, underwater topography and archaeological evidence strongly suggests that this wreck is Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria,” says Barry Clifford, a archaeological investigator from the US.

Clifford is planning a return trip to Haiti next month to meet with officials and plan the next steps to take.

Weekly Press Review – 28 February 2014

Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson finally made the announcement this week that fishermen who lost their traditional linefish rights at the end of 2013 will be allowed to continue fishing until the end of April 2014.

The Minister said,”There do seem to be legitimate concerns either relating to poor administration of the applications or questionable judgements by the delegated officers.  I do want to deal with these questions of propriety before I can consider any appeals that may be lodged.”

I think that most people would agree that firstly, this was a very mild summing up of the problems that have plagued the fishing rights allocation process and also that it seems far too little, too late for those fishermen who are struggling to maintain their livelihoods.

We will see what the minster comes back with after “”dealing with” these questions and whether the process shall then continue as is or, as many are calling for, be completely re-examined.  Perhaps a fresh start is what is called for.   Certainly many lessons can be learnt from the errors of the last 12 months alone.

After listening to a variety of radio reports about a grounded vessel yesterday that all seemed to get the news incorrect; it was reported in the press that a Hout Bay-based crayfish boat ran aground near Betty’s Bay resulting in the death of one man.

Unfortunately the vessel, Connect, ran aground in a Marine Protected Area and the resulting  10,000 litre diesel spill is endangering the nearly 4,000 penguins and other seabirds and animals in the area.

Justin Lawrence, spokesman for Cape Nature said, “What makes the situation dangerous is the fact that the diesel is not visible, therefore, we cannot determine how far it has spread.  We are trying to rescue as many penguins and seabirds as we can.“

The vessel is also believed to be carrying 80 litres of engine oil.

Weekly Press Review – 14 February 2014

The fishing rights allocation process made headlines again this week as a discussion of a report by the fisheries department, explaining the controversial allocation process, was not discussed by the portfolio committee as scheduled.

The reason:  the appeals process is still not 100 percent complete and the report is, therefore, still  regarded as “a work in  progress.”

Needless to say there were angry responses from both DA MPs Pieter van Dalen and Annette Steyn.  They both described the urgency with which the allocation process needed to be discussed, saying there was a “crisis out there” as many fishers lost their livelihoods at the end of last year.

It is shocking that a situation which obviously requires immediate attention is not met with the urgency that is necessary to resolve the issues as quickly as possible.

In some sad news this week, a Department of Environmental Affairs technician, involved in an expedition on Gough Island has died.  Johannes Hoffman, aged 36, apparently choked on his own vomit and doctors on site were unable to save him.

Colleagues who worked with Hoffman are obviously in shock and are receiving counseling from a psychologist who is also charged with bringing Hoffman’s body back to Cape Town.

Of course, today’s media attention will focus on the president’s State of the Nation Address last night – which did at least nod in the direction of the maritime industry by mentioning the importance of the fishing industry; progress relating to port development as well as the imminent importance of the offshore oil and gas industries to Saldanha Bay and Cape Town.