Weekly Press Review – 7 March 2014

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is back in the news this week with staff of the fisheries branch handing a document to members of parliament complaining of: wasteful expenditure, fraud, nepotism and the scrapping of critical posts.

Urgent intervention has been called for.

To add to the Department’s woes a large group of people from local coastal towns descended on the city this week to hand over an official memorandum addressed to DAFF Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson and director-general Edith Vries, calling for the reinstatement of ousted fisheries chief Desmond Stevens.

Stevens was removed from his position after he was vocal about feeling slighted by the Minister’s comments that there seemed to be “legitimate concerns, either relating to poor administration of the fishing rights allocation process or questionable judgments by the elected officials.” She has called for an audit to investigate the matter.

Those calling for Stevens’ reinstatement described him as accessible and approachable with a “passion about transforming the fishing sector.”

We all know that it is impossible to please all of the people, all of the time, but it would seem that DAFF is unable to please any of the people, any of the time.

On a more somber note, the body Department of Environmental Affairs technician, Johannes Hoffman, who died on Gough Island last week, has been returned to Cape Town. Our condolences to his family and colleagues.

The penguins of the Stony Point Penguin Colony near Betty’s Bay are still being closely monitored this week, after 10 000 litres of diesel was spilled when a fishing trawler ran aground in the area.

About 4,000 penguins and 400 nests of various seabirds were exposed to the spilled diesel and the area was temporarily closed as authorities examined the birds for diesel contamination.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) principal said that fortunately the spilled diesel would eventually evaporate and would not remain an environmental threat forever. That is good news, but does not help those birds already contaminated.

Weekly Press Review – 16 August 2013

The Fisheries Department is back in the hot seat this week (again) with officials again being criticised for still not getting the country’s research and patrol vessels back in the water.

Acting Fisheries Department deputy director-general, Desmond Stevens had the rather unenviable task of updating parliament on the status of the vessels and assured those present that both the Ruth First and Victoria Mxenge were ready for action and merely waiting seaworthy certificates from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and that the Lilian Ngoyi would be ready to sail by the end of September. Various MPs stated that they would be waiting on the dock at Simon’s Town to board the vessel on the promised date.

Let us hope that the Fisheries Department can deliver this time. It would seem that the pressure is finally on.

The stranded Kiani Satu has remained in the press all week as all attempts to refloat the vessel, still stranded off the coast of Buffels Bay, have thus far failed. According to Captain Nigel Campbell, responsible for overseeing the salvage operation for SAMSA, it is the strong swell due to harsh weather conditions that is hampering the refloating process.

Obviously the oil that is still leaking from the damaged vessel remains a cause for concern and Parliament’s portfolio committee has called for harsher penalties to be imposed on those responsible for the pollution of local waters in an attempt to protect fish and marine life resources.

This is something that could really go a long way towards protecting our coastline. Let us hope that the powers that be are able to come up with a plan that can be implemented fairly and quickly.

There was also some maritime drama off the coast of Robben Island this week, as the crew of the fishing trawler Claremont, had to be rescued after the vessel crashed into the rocks along the island’s coastline.

The rescue operation was carried out over four hours by the NSRI and all 12 crew members were safely brought back to shore. Another successful NSRI operation.

It seems that the salvage season has started in Cape Town.

Press Wrap up – 28 June 2013

With a few delays in getting our Weekly Press Review out over the last month, herewith please find a wrap up of the media coverage of the maritime industry during June (since our last post of 7 June 2013). 

During the week ending 14th June,  The African Marine Debris Summit wrapped up in Kirstenbosch, Cape Town and although it did not really feature much in the press, one can’t help but feel that it should have.

In her opening remarks, Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi said, “Marine debris is not just an unsightly issue having a negative impact on tourism and human health but it is also responsible for deaths of a myriad of the creatures that inhabit the marine environment.”

Waste finding its way into our oceans is an ever-growing concern. Hopefully summits like these will not only draw attention to the problem, but also provide some possible solutions.

During the following week, the big news making headlines was the final outcome of the case against Hout Bay fishing magnate, Arnold Bengis, his son David and their overseas partner, Jeffrey Noll. The case, which has taken many years to reach this final stage, was brought against the three men for illegally exporting large amounts of west coast rock lobster from South Africa to the United States.

The United States has ordered that they pay an amount of R294 million in restitution to South Africa.

Desmond Stevens, acting head of fisheries for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said, “It is a huge amount of money. South Africa’s biggest restitution in illegal fishing.” He hoped that the money would be put into the Marine Living Resources Fund to assist with the fight against poaching.

You may have seen the article written by Shaheen Moolla in our March/April issue which highlighted where he thought the money should go.

Although a slow process, it is good to see that those who try to steal and cheat and abuse our marine resources do eventually have to pay the price. And what a price.

Now we wait to see where that R294 million goes.

During the last week, the maritime industry celebrated International Day of the Seafarer. 

June 25 marked the International Day of the Seafarer. This year IMO, together with United Nations, celebrated the day with a campaign entitled: Faces of the Sea. The idea behind the campaign was to encourage both individuals and organisations to use social media as a means to highlight various activities at sea, through photographs and messages, and in this way acknowledge seafarers from around the world, celebrating them and thanking them for their efforts at sea.

In this way it was hoped that the sheer diversity and scale of products used in our everyday lives that travel by sea would be highlighted and that the 1.5 million seafarers that make this possible would be recognised for their tremendous efforts.

A clever use of the world of social media to support a group of men and women who often go unrecognised despite their valuable contribution, often made in less than ideal conditions.

Die Burger picked up on the initiative a ran a great story on some of South Africa’s seafarers.