Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, attended a World Fisheries Day celebration in Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape this week. According to the press, the minister said that fishing communities needed to be the custodians of the protection of marine resources.
The celebrations served to highlight the importance of maintaining the world’s fisheries, as fish is an important source of food for many worldwide. One in five people depend on fish as their primary food source.
With the holiday season just around the corner, South African harbours are preparing for a busy tourist season. TNPA Chief Executive Richard Vallihu was quoted in the press this week as saying that at least eight pleasure boats and 10 passenger ships are expected to bring tens of thousands of both international and local tourists to South African harbours over the next few months.
Some of the vessels scheduled to visit our shores include:
- Nautica – Ocean Cruises
- Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager – Regent seven Seas Cruises
- MS Astor – Transocean Tours
- MS Marina and Insignia – Oceania Cruises
- Silver Cloud – Silversea Cruises, and
- Europa 2 – Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
Also making headlines this week is the arrival of the Meteoro in Table Bay. The vessel is one of the world’s most advanced offshore patrol vessels and has recently spent four months in the Gulf of Aden fighting piracy off the Somalian coast.
The deployment of the Meteoro forms part of the Spanish government’s commitment to Operation Atlanta, the EU’s counter-piracy mission started in 2008.
The vessel will host several official engagements during her stay in the Cape.
The release of the International Maritime Bureau’s global report made headlines this week with the revelation that in 2014 Asia accounted for three-quarters of global maritime piracy. The piracy mostly took the form of tanker hijackings, resulting in a jump of 22 percent in armed robbery and pirate attacks in the region.
Intertanko regional manager Asia said, “There is no hiding the fact the 22 percent increase is significant and worrying.”
In a response to this and the concern for crew safety, ReCAAP has proposed the extension of naval and coastguard patrols in the area.
A fossil discovery in Scotland has made headlines this week. The fossil, a shark-like reptile believed to have lived 170 million years ago, was discovered on the Isle of Sky in 1959, but has only now been identified as a new species of Ichthyosaur – a long extinct marine reptile that dominated the oceans in the Jurassic period.
The discovery has been named Dearcmhara Shawcrossi after the amateur collector who donated the specimen to the Glasgow Hunterian Museum.
Dr Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh said, “During the time of the dinosaurs, the waters of Scotland were prowled by big reptiles the size of motor boats. Their fossils are very rare.”
Over the last few weeks the Bring Back Our Girls (#bringbackourgirls) campaign has ignited quite a following across the globe. Initially fueled by many people’s outrage that the media had all but ignored the story, this grew to a lambasting of international super-powers for not stepping in to assist Nigeria find the girls. Mostly the argument followed the rather simplistic course that, if this had happened to 200 white schoolgirls the media would have been all over it and that if it was a situation that jeopardised America’s access to oil then they would have sent in the troops.
This is not the place to debate either of these suppositions and certainly the plight of these girls is one of grave concern. Indeed the message to Bring Back Our Girls has gone viral and everyone is standing up in support of it: from the ANC Women’s league to individuals keen to pen, blog and tweet about it to get in on the action. Even corporates are parading employees in front of cameras and posting photos of them holding up signs with the Bring Back Our Girls message on them – some of them in the maritime industry.
So damn it – where is the #BringBackOurSeafarers campaign? Why is every shipping company, support company, port company, importer, exporter and seafarer not jumping up and down for more media coverage about the plight of 54 seafarers who are still being held hostage in deplorable conditions. According to the recently released document on the State of Maritime Piracy by Oceans Beyond Piracy these seafarers have been held in captivity for almost three years.
“Substantial work must still be done in the interest of saving the lives of the 54 high risk hostages who remain in pirate captivity almost three years after their capture. Moreover, the continued ability of pirates to hijack small vessels such as dhows and fishing vessels is a continued risk. It is important to remember that piracy is not only a threat to the free flow of goods, but also to the well-being of individual seafarers, regardless of their vessel size or nationality. It is evident that the number of hostages in captivity, while trending downward, remains of immediate relevance to counter-piracy work and should be prioritized by the maritime and international communities,” the report says.
While I am personally doubtful of the true effectiveness of viral campaigns such as the one directed at releasing the Nigerian schoolgirls and feel they simply help us feel better about being powerless in the face of such atrocities; what if they are even slightly successful in seeing their safe return as a global eye is turned to the situation?
What if viral campaigns do prompt the appropriate action? Then the maritime industry needs to be more active in pushing the agenda. Yes we have had successful intervention at sea in the form of naval presence, armed guards and vessel hardening – but 54 seafarers are still no closer to going home. So as you spare a thought for the schoolgirls and their families – spare a thought for those seafarers and their families and consider some action. #BringBackOurSeafarers.