Cape Town - SA’s top
marine scientists are shocked by the Environmental Department’s (DEA) recent
decision to allow fishing in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA) and have
announced that they will be using the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA)
to demand an explanation from the Department which they say has ignored
scientific data and put SA at risk of losing one of its most significant fish
After a yearlong
public participation process the DEA announced in December that registration for
permits to allow Tsitsikamma residents limited shore fishing in three
designated zones of the Garden Route reserve could commence.
SEE: Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area rezoned, open for fishing
The group of
marine experts, Friends of Tsitsikamma, says the Department has made a mockery
of the public participation process and ignored more than 700 submitted
comments against opening the MPA to anglers. They say that the decision to
allow fishing “flies in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence backed by
the majority of experienced marine scientists in South Africa, who supported
maintaining the Tsitsikamma National Park (TNP) as a no-take area.”
The park is
Africa’s oldest marine
protected area and was re-proclaimed as a no-take zone under the Marine Living
Resources Act in 2000 to protect fish species found nowhere else in the world. But since then fishermen
from surrounding communities have pressurised the DEA to reinstate their
fishing rights, going so far as to threaten the safety of tourists if their demands were
have continued to fight against this move saying that the Tsitsikamma MPA is
vital for the survival of many resident long-lived fish species as it provides
an essential breeding ground which contributes to adjacent exploited
spill-over. They say if it wasn’t for the protection received in the MPA the survival
of these species would severely threatened.
Of the most
common shore angling species caught within Tsitsikamma’s MPA 80% are endemic to
South Africa; ten of the species are overexploited or collapsed within their
South African distributions and 36% are listed on one of the IUCN’s Global Red
List of threatened categories.
anglers have already registered for a fishing permit. But, even with a maximum
daily bag limit of 10 fish, over the monthly permitted 4 fishing days per
fisherman, more than 3000 fish could be pulled out of the sea every month.
SEE: Tsitsikamma MPA pilot: Destroying 50 years of conservation?
that it will take between two and six months to fish down the resident fish
populations to levels similar to those found outside the MPA,” says Bruce Mann,
senior scientist at Durban’s Oceanographic Research Institute.
says that by allowing shore based angling in Tsitsikamma’s marine reserve SA is
reneging on international marine protection treaties and protocols to which it
is a signatory, such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the
Convention on Biological Diversity.
African National Parks (SANParks) argue that many of SA’s Marine Protected
Areas cater for poorer communities by allowing recreational line fishing from
at least part of the coastline, including the Garden Route’s Goukamma and Robberg MPAs.
each of these MPAs was created for different purposes. Goukamma MPA was established
to protect offshore reefs - with which shore-based angling is not in conflict -
from ski-boat fishing. Similarly, shore-based angling is allowed at Robberg since
the purpose of this MPA was not to protect angling fish but other species.
due to its rich biodiversity and inaccessibility of much of its coastline the
Tsitsikamma MPA was established specifically for the purpose of protecting
vulnerable long-lived angling species accessible from the shore.
READ: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Pics show blatant abuse of Cape protected marine reserve
says monitoring initiatives to evaluate the social and ecological outcomes of
the fishing are in the
pipeline, but according to scientists based at Rhodes University, who were
involved in initial research for Tsitsikamma’s pilot fishing phase last year there
is no plan involving Rhodes or any other
institution for research and monitoring.
“(Our) concerns remain the lack of up-to-date
baseline data on the status of these species in the TNP and the lack of a published
monitoring plan and scientific fishery management plan,” says Professor Peter
Britz of Rhodes Department of Ichthyology. He points out that to date the
Fisheries Department (DAFF), under whose mandate the Tsitsikamma MPA was
created, have made no statement on the MPA’s new zoning or how its goals will
still be achieved.
“This is a
reflection of poor governance and custodianship of a national asset (…..) Here
we see the Government itself acting in an ad hoc, non-transparent and
unaccountable way in terms of assessment of impact.”
monitors have been appointed to assist in enforcing compliance but
conservationists are concerned that complex regulations, lack of trained staff
and the challenging rocky terrain will prevent law enforcement from being
“The selection of the three zones was based
purely on access paths to the coastline,” says Mann. “Once these areas have
been fished out the fishermen will be tempted to move to adjacent areas, which
will be extremely difficult to enforce.”
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