Weekly Press Review – 16 October 2015

The international FishCRIME symposium has made headlines this week.  The symposium, a joint initiative by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the Norwegian government and two NGOs, Stop Illegal Fishing and PescaDOLUS, took place at the CTICC in Cape Town earlier in the week..

The key note address was delivered by Eve de Coning of Interpol, Oslo.  De Coning said that crimes in the fishing sector had four common denominators:

  • They occurred across international borders
  • There was usually more than one crime involved
  • There was a high degree of secrecy in company and vessel ownership, and
  • Many jurisdictions made prosecution extremely difficult.

Crimes in the fishing sector globally include not only illegal fishing, but also tax and custom evasion, fraud, forged documentation, money laundering, drugs and weapons smuggling and illegal labour practices.

DAFF’s head of fisheries enforcement, Ceba Mtoba, said that fishing crimes were run by global criminal networks and South Africa needed to be part of a global network in order to effectively address the problems.

The pollution of our oceans has also made headlines this week with a visit by members of the round-the-world Race for Water Odyssey to the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.

The odyssey, initiated by the Race for Water Foundation, began in France in March and hopes to make the first global assessment of plastic pollution in the oceans from its trimaran.

Board member, Franklin Servan-Schreiber said, “Fifty percent of oxygen we owe to tiny plankton we don’t even see, but dust plastic is affecting the plankton’s ability to produce oxygen.”

Approximately 80 percent of the rubbish in the ocean is plastic.  According to Marco Simeoni, president of the Race for Water Foundation, despite the massive scale of plastic waste in the ocean, not much is known about it.

The team hopes to assess plastic pollution on remote islands in the oceans five main rubbish hotspots with the aim of determining the type of plastic, as well as its toxicity to marine life.

Perlemoen with an estimated value of R17 million was confiscated on the Cape Flats this week.  According to the press the police worked through the night counting the illegally poached perlemoen – the biggest haul of the year thus far.

No suspects have as yet been arrested and the investigation is ongoing.

Weekly Press Review – 18 September 2015

The big news in the press this week is the release of the WWF Living Blue Planet Report which paints a very bleak picture for the future of ocean ecosystems in South Africa and worldwide.

The report is released every two years, providing a picture of the current state of the oceans globally.

According to Marco Lambertini, WWF director-general, the report illustrates how humanity is “collectively mismanaging the ocean to the brink of collapse.”

The two main issues highlighted by the report are the irreversible damage done within a single generation by fishing faster than the fish are able to reproduce and the careless destruction of fish nurseries such as estuaries, seagrass meadows, mangroves and corals.

In the last 40 years, global marine populations have dropped by more than half. Even more shockingly deep-sea fish populations in the North Atlantic have dropped by an unprecedented 72 percent.

Other findings of the report include:

  • More than 5 trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans
  • Toxic waste from industries continues to enter the marine system
  • A rapid increase in coastal tourism has resulted in marine habitat destruction
  • Cruise ships generate 795,000 litres of sewerage each week which is often illegally dumped
  • Mangroves essential for fish nurseries are being destroyed
  • Fish subsidies worth $14 billion encourage over fishing on a global scale

In response to this, nearly three billion people worldwide rely on fish as a major food source and our oceans generate approximately $2.5 trillion annually in economic benefits.

Only 3.4 percent of the ocean is protected at this point in time.

According to Lambertini the ongoing mismanagement of our oceans in light of these facts is “simply unacceptable.”

Weekly Press Review – 29 August 2014

PetroSA has made the headlines this week with the decision to cancel plans to build a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Mossel Bay.  The decision was based on a feasibility study which revealed several technical complications at the site as well as financial considerations.

The company has said that it is still planning to keep looking for a suitable location along the coast.

A story revealing how fishermen take care of fishermen also made news this week.  Local fishermen came to the aid of two fishermen whose rubber duck capsized off the coast of Lamberts Bay. The fishermen were escorted to the local harbour where the NSRI were on hand.  The two stricken fishermen, aged 55 and 45 were treated for mild hypothermia.

The NSRI thanked the fishing community in the area for their assistance.

In environmental news, it was reported that Japan is planning to propose a 50 percent cut on catches of young tuna.  The decision is aimed at safeguarding the at-risk species.

With the terrible weather slamming the South African coast this week, it is not surprising that rough seas led to a chokka fishing boat running aground off St Francis Bay.  It has been reported that the vessel, the Sikelela, lost power while turning towards the harbour entrance and, due to high swells and strong winds, ran aground on rocks and harbour wall dolosse.

The St Francis Bay NSRI managed to rescue all 13 crew members.

A survey into plastic pollution in our oceans grabbed media attention too.  Author, Charles J Moore, a captain in the US Merchant Fleet and founder of a leading ocean research group has stated that he is “utterly shocked” by the amount of plastic floating in the sea.

The sight causing all the alarm is what is being described as a floating landfill site in the North Pacific Ocean and Moore believes that the ever increasing amount of pollution in our oceans is far deadlier than climate change.

“It’s choking our future in ways that most of us are barely aware of.”

Unfortunately there are no high tech methods to reduce ocean pollution, but plastic pollution seems to be the biggest contributor.  With plastic, there is action that can be taken.  The survey offers some solutions:

  • Plastic bag tax
  • Screens to cover gutters and catchment basins
  • Even more emphasis on recycling
  • Sieve-like skimmers to remove debris from the water.

These all sound like practical solutions, but like most problems affecting our planet, I think the first change needs to take place in the hearts and minds of those living on this planet.  That would be us.  Think, reuse and recycle.