Weekly Press Review – 17 July 2015

Shark researchers in the US on a quest for more humane solutions to protect ocean users from sharks have made a real breakthrough according to the press this week:  education and a bit of common sense.

The research done by researchers at Stanford University has found that the solution does not need to be as extreme as culling sharks.  Simply providing better information to bathers about the risk of shark attacks should be enough.

Shark researcher, Francesco Ferretti, said, “Just like we check the weather before going boating, or the surf forecast before going surfing, getting information about the risk of encountering large predators can become a normal precaution we take before going into the ocean.”

Information for bathers to consider would be the season, the time of day and the types of activities taking place in the water.  For example, spear fishing is an activity with added risk.

The KZN Sharks Board has responded by saying that in South African waters the problem lies in the fact that the great white shark is not the only problem species in the area. The behaviour and habits of Zambezi and tiger sharks also need to be considered.

For now our shark nets remain in place, but surely there is a lot to be said for just using your common sense when interacting with the ocean environment, or any other environment for that matter..

Also covered in the press this week is the signing of an agreement by ambassadors from the US, Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark and other Arctic nations barring their fishing fleets from fast-thawing sea areas around the North Pole.

The agreement was reached in response to the ever increasing threat of global warming which is resulting in the melting of sea ice in the central Arctic Ocean and impacting on marine life in the immediate area and beyond.

Very little is known about this area, but the agreement is seen as a pre-emptive strike.  The deal  “will prevent a problem from arising ahead of time,” said David Balton, US deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and fisheries.

Scott Highleyman, director of international Arctic  affairs at the Pew Charitable Trusts environmental group said, “It’s hugely encouraging.  It’s hard to get governments’ attention for problems that haven’t occurred yet.”

The agreement also called for more research into Arctic marine resources.

Weekly Press Review – 11 April 2014

The shark culling taking place in Australia has made the news again this week.  A new survey has revealed that despite the relatively high incidents of shark attacks along the Australian coast and the very aggressive culling campaign, Australians, on the whole, are not overly concerned about being attacked.

In a survey of 583 individuals, 87 percent felt that sharks should not be killed due to the possibility of an attack and 69 percent felt that public education would be a far better approach to preventing attacks.

University of Sydney shark expert, Christopher Neff said:  “The assumption is that the public is afraid. That when shark bites happen that they react emotionally and that they are looking for an immediate response.  My data refutes that.”

A total of 45 sharks gave been killed thus far in the largest shark culling drive in the world in Western Australia.  The state government wants to extend the culling for another three years.

Surely if this drive was in response to the terror that Australians felt at visiting their own beaches, then this survey proves that this is not necessary. Australians are not afraid and are intelligent enough to realise the risks involved when interacting with our oceans.

Is this culling drive perhaps aimed at putting the minds of visitors to Australia’s beaches at peace and ensuring the continuation of a lucrative tourism trade?

Weekly Press Review – 7 February 2014

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) are reported to be working together to finalise “benefits that would be flourished to vessels bearing a South African flag.” (sic)  The purpose of the exercise, obviously, to attract companies to the South African ships register.

The authorities are looking for a collection of benefits from various sources, not only port-related benefits.  Tau Morwe, TNPA chief executive, said:  “We could look at benefits such as berthing priority.  We could look at benefits in terms of port costs and benefits of what actually happens in ports.”

It would seem that things are moving in a positive direction with regard to securing vessels for the South African ships’ registrar.  The major players are  working together to come up with a plan that will really excite, inspire and motivate ship owners to look at the South African ships registry as a realistic and preferred option.

This week, the Italian flagship aircraft carrier, Cavour, docked in Cape Town on a truly humanitarian mission.  The vessel is functioning as a mobile hospital.  In conjunction with the Red Cross and the Operation Smile, the staff of 40 volunteer medical professionals on board are here to perform free facial surgeries on children born with cleft lips and palates.

Italy’s ambassador to South Africa, Vincenzo Schioppa, said, “This is not a ship for war.  This is a ship for peace, a ship for friendship and for collaboration.”

Australia’s shark culling programme made headlines again this week as a group of South African protesters gathered outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre to protest the culling.  It is good to see South Africans supporting wildlife concerns in other countries, although I suspect the demonstration would have made little impact on Australian shores.  Interesting that we do not see much protesting to protect our own endangered wildlife being “culled “on an almost daily basis.

Finally, the South Africa Ship Society hosted a viewing of the documentary “Nazi Titanic” earlier this week.  We invite those present to please offer some feedback.

Weekly Press Review – 31 January 2014

Hout Bay harbour was in the headlines this week as angry fishermen blockaded the harbour on Wednesday and Thursday in protest as two local fishermen were feared drowned.

Locals said that informal fishermen were forced to fish at night, which is far more dangerous, as they had no fishing rights.

Anthony Theunissen, a local fisherman, said that people in his community had been fishing for generations and knew no other way of life.  He added that the protest was aimed at closing the harbour’s economic activity.

The fishermen want not only fishing rights, but are calling for transformation within the fishing industry.

Fisheries branch spokesperson, Carol Moses expressed the department’s regret at the loss of life.

Amendments to the Marine Living Resources Act are currently before government.

Surely, there is some positive way forward for these local fishermen who are asking nothing more than the chance to feed their families and make a living?

The SA Agulhas featured briefly in the news as the vessel made a stop alongside the ice of Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean to deliver equipment required for the island’s new communications station.

Another impressive vessel in the news this week is the Queen Mary 2.  Fans of the world’s largest ocean liner, will have been delighted as the vessel sailed into Table Bay Harbour for a two day visit.

Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for Tourism, welcomed the vessel saying that cruise ships brought more than 10, 000 visitors to the Western Cape annually generating more than R200 million for the economy.   He also stated that he was looking forward to the development of a dedicated cruise liner terminal.

We shall wait and see.

The controversial Australian shark culling policy has made headlines again this week with the killing of the first shark caught in the bait lines off the Australian coast.  The shark, a 3m female tiger shark was caught in the lines and shot by a contracted fisherman.

Needless to say, and quite rightly so, local environmental activists are outraged by the killing and a large public backlash is expected.  Western Australian State Premier, Colin Barnett, is standing by the decision, saying that the safety of beach goers is the ultimate aim.

The programme is only on trial for a two month period.  Let us hope that someone in charge comes to their senses and looks at a more environmentally friendly option – perhaps something similar to the exclusion nets in use in False Bay??