Weekly Press Review – 4 March 2016

The big maritime news this week is the announcement of plans to create a new 70,000km2 network of marine protected areas.

According to the press the plans include:

  • expansion of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s sea boundaries in Kwazulu-Natal,
  • a new protected area off the Thukela River,
  • a new shark and fish sanctuary off the Protea Banks on the south coast and
  • expansion of the Aliwal Shoal protected area.

Details of the new marine protected areas (MPAs) have been published in a 336-page notice in the government gazette by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Although the declaration of these new expanded MPAs should be celebrated, it is important to note that they are in response to the present situation of collapsed sea fish stocks and increasing exploitation of oceans worldwide.

Conservation group WWF’s response to the announcement has been positive, but they have cautioned that it is essential to ensure that there is adequate budget, staff and enforcement capacity to ensure the proper running of these protected areas.

Zolile Nqayi, Environment Affairs spokesman, said that the new proposed MPAs had been identified through the presidential project Operation Phakisa.


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 – 24 May 2013

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the country’s marine patrol vessels are back in the press this week as the government toys with idea of taking responsibility for the vessels away from DAFF completely and handing it to the Department of Transport’s SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

According to a senior shipping source, the idea behind the move would be to place the patrol ships under a department with marine safety responsibilities and disaster management expertise. The question is whether a body tasked with implementing safety standards on vessels should necessarily be owning vessels themselves.

Although this makes sense from a safety perspective, where does the responsibility for research then lie?

According to another article in the press, more and more novices are being drawn into the world of perlemoen poaching. Recently police have made a number of arrests in areas such as Khayelitsha and Nyanga, areas not traditionally associated with perlemoen poaching. According to Shaheen Moolla, chief executive of the marine research company Feike, “The reality is that poaching in these areas has been on the increase for some time.”

Carol Moses of DAFF added that, “Poaching is not an isolated criminal activity and poachers often work in association with illegal drug dealers and other organised crime elements.”

The result is that the poaching of our country’s perlemoen now needs to be addressed from many different angles and a unified, co-operative front will need to be established if there is any hope of seeing our perlemoen 30 years from now.

Also making news this week was the open letter to Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. A group of academics from UCT, the University of the Western Cape, the Oceanographic Institute and Rhodes University, as well as the World Wild Life Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Masifundise Development Trust have written a letter to the Minister calling for an extension to the time given for public feedback on important upcoming legislation. The public was initially given six weeks to comment on the Marine Living Resources Amendment Bill, but this was subsequently cut to three weeks.

We wait to hear her response – if there is one.