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Archive for April, 2011

This article appeared on www.health24.com on 20 April 2011.
Hundreds of dead abalone have washed up on Melkbos beach near Cape Town in recent weeks, prompting fears that the ocean in the area between Bloubergstrand and Melkbosstrand is toxic.
The Department of Agriculture and Forestry & Fisheries has allegedly alerted all abalone quota holders that the Melkbos area is a no-dive zone until further notice.
This is a particularly worrying as the upcoming Easter weekend would normally bring hordes of families, surfers and fishermen to the area. To date, no official notice has been publicly broadcast warning the public of the concerns.
Melkbos resident Beatrix McLaughlin, who is an abalone quota holder for the Melkbos area, first became concerned about the quality of the water on March 25 when a marlin weighing roughly 240kg washed up on shore. According to McLaughlin this fish is uncommon for the area.
Marine Coastal Management (MCM) was called to collect the fish. However, McLaughin says that despite repeated e-mails and phone calls to try and find out whether the fish was tested and what the results were, she has not heard anything back.
Then last week ,on April 11, McLaughlin says that two commercial abalone fishing boats “working in the Melkbos area Zone G, came across thousands of dead abalone and other sea organisms. They had to abort [the dive] as it was not safe to collect”, as they suspected the deaths were due to toxins. They immediately phoned MCM from the water to inform them of the problem and were told to abort the dive and that the Melkbos area was a ‘no dive’ zone. This information had not been shared before.
To add to the mystery, McLaughlin says that at this point they came across a Koeberg Research Boat with divers who told her they had “not come across anything like this” before. The fishermen handed over samples of the dead abalone, after which McLaughlin said the boat “headed back to Koeberg very quickly”.
People have been photographed collecting dead abalone to eat, which may be extremely dangerous but DAFF continues to remain silent.
Concern continued to grow amongst commercial fishermen that the water in the Blouberg, Big Bay and Melkbos areas was perhaps toxic, and on the morning of the April 12, when McLaughlin came across dead abalone and eel on the Melkbos beach, she decided to bag as many of the dead creatures as possible and made an appointment at the MCM offices to get to the bottom of the problem. “While I was picking up the dead abalone to take them to MCM, there were dozens of other people also collecting them off the beach to take home and eat. I tried to tell them not to but they looked at me like I was crazy. But the kelp is dead too, and even bottom feeders like eels are washing up on shore so something is going on. When I got home my hands were burning from touching the abalone,” she says.
Yet when she finally had her meeting with MCM management and presented them with the now-foul smelling dead abalone, she claims that she was merely congratulated for “looking after the coast and bringing this to their attention”.
“They said they didn’t realise the situation was so bad, despite my numerous e-mails and phone calls to them before that, and said they would make measures to alert the relevant municipalities.”
With only a few days to go until the Easter weekend, the beaches in this area are already teeming with surfers, children swimming in the sea, people fishing from land and people walking their dogs.
The real question is what is happening to the water, and if it’s killing sea-life, is it a threat to human health? Is the water toxic? Does the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station have anything to do with it? Is it a result of sewage being pumped into the sea?
We attempted to put these questions to MCM but were told they were unavailable.
“I would like to know why the public is not being made aware of what’s happening here; and if the water is toxic – which I do believe it is – the public should be made aware,” says McLaughlin.

PE Herald Article on BBWW

Chumming fines co-incide with issuing of whale permit
18 April 2011
Guy Rogers

NELSON Mandela Bay Municipality has issued four fines to marine tourism operator Lloyd Edwards related to the controversial chumming incident off Humewood Beach last month. The issuing of the fines at the Port Elizabeth beach office on Friday co-incides with the issuing this week of the long-awaited boat-based whale watching (BBWW) license for Algoa Bay – to Edwards.

It also runs parallel to a process launched in Cape Town last week in which the marine consultancy Feike has called on the public protector to scrutinise Edwards’ operation and the response of the environment department.

See www.peherald.com for the full article.

On Thursday 14 April 2011, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism confirmed her department’s support for illegal and reckless behavior by marine tour operators when she confirmed a boat based whale watching permit for the illegal BBWW operator, Raggy Charters.
The Minister allocated Raggy Charters a BBWW permit for the PE area despite a plethora of illegal conduct and violations of the BBWW Regulations and Policy which ought to have disqualified the application by Raggy Charters.
Raggy Charters has long advertised its illegal BBWW and dolphin watching business which was repeatedly brought to the attention of the Minister. This was ignored and instead it became clear that Raggy Charters was told to amend its website and stop advertising its illegal BBWW services but it continued providing illegal BBWW services via a host of alternative advertising channels. When Raggy Charters made application for a BBWW permit, its black partner was a senior employee at SANParks. In terms of the BBWW regulations and policy this ought to have resulted in the exclusion of the application as the conflict constituted a material defect. Instead, the Minister allowed Raggy Charters to secretly change its black partner and correct the material defect in violation of South African law. And most recently, the Minister sat quietly and buried her head in the sand of Hobie beach when Raggy Charters admitted to chumming illegally within 200m of a Hobie Beach which then resulted in the closure of the beach due to the prevalence of sharks. This illegal conduct ought to have caused the immediate exclusion of Raggy Charters’ application as its owner admitted to the media that he was chumming without a permit for seabirds. This admission amounts to at least three criminal offences which carry penalties of up to R5 million and imprisonment of up to 10 years… but the Minister of DEA who is charged with enforcing these laws, elected to ignore these violations.
So how does an openly illegal operator still get the sole permit to conduct BBWW in PE? How is it that Raggy Charters can confidently make admissions which amount to multiple criminal offences knowing that it will not affect its BBWW permit application?
Would any other operator be able to openly advertise that it is an illegal BBWW operator? Would any other operator be able to openly admit to the media that it chums for seabirds (and sharks) without any permit within 200m of a swimming beach without suffering the serious consequences provided for under various laws? Was any other operator allowed to secretly amend its application and change its ownership profile? No.
Feike has lodged a formal complaint with the Public Protector (PP) about the preferential and illegal conduct shown by the Minister and her department to Raggy Charters and its owner Lloyd Edwards. We are requesting the PP to investigate why such serious violations have been ignored by the Minister and her department.
Gabrielle Lubowski’s book, “On Solid Ground”, is available online at amazon.com. This book is self published and funded with the help of close family only. Also all proceeds are going to the Anton Lubowski Educational Trust, a fully registered PBO and NPO.
“On Solid Ground” tells the story of Gabrielle Lubowski’s life after her husband, SWAPO activist Anton Lubowski, was murdered by the Apartheid regime in September 1989.
The book is now available on Amazon and available to the public worldwide by logging onto http://www.amazon.com/Solid-Ground-Gabrielle-Lubowski/dp/1456475290/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302598459&sr=1-1
The Shadow Minister of Environmental Affairs, Gareth Morgan (DA), has confirmed that the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa (ANC), continues to apply her mind to the boat-based whale watching (BBWW) and white-shark cage diving (WSCD) appeals and remains unable to confirm a date on which she will announce her decisions.
The Minister has also confirmed that a verification process was initiated back in November 2010 and was completed in February 2011. This of course means that the Minister has been “applying her mind” to these 70 appeals since July 2010! She must be thoroughly mentally exhausted what with all those sharks and whale on the brain!
We do accept that the appeals process would have highlighted a number of fundamentally flawed decision-making processes, which would render the the entire allocation process as fatally flawed. These flaws have been highlighted on this blog and any current operator that is excluded has a slam-dunk review application on at least a couple of easy administrative review grounds. Then of course the Minister happily admitted in writing that she allowed Raggy Charters – the illegal BBWW operator in PE – to secretly change its ownership profile so that it could correct a material defect in its application. This admission was perhaps the greatest legal error I have ever come across.
So the Minister may be delaying her decisions as she finds herself between a white shark and a frolicking Southern Right, not knowing how to save herself the embarrassment of urgent interdicts, adverse costs orders and the setting aside of her department’s application procedures.

IOTC Expresses Frustration with SA

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission in March expressed its frustration with South Africa’s continued tardiness at completing the necessary processes to become a full member of the IOTC. It is unclear what “accession processes” are required to be completed by South Africa. The IOTC has given South Africa until its next meeting in 2012 to complete all processes for full membership.
The IOTC Compliance Committee also noted with concern the number of illegal fishing vessels flying the flags of Iran, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The full report of the Compliance Committee is available at http://www.iotc.org/files/proceedings/2011/s/IOTC-2011-CoC8-R[E].pdf

Large Pelagic Appeal Decisions Announced

On 15 March 2011 the Minister of Fisheries finally attached her signature to the appeals lodged by unsuccessful applicants in the tuna and swordfish long line fisheries.
The decisions themselves are uncontroversial and appear to be rational and all the rest of it. What does however warrant comment is that the Appeals document published on the DAFF website notes that 7 appeals were lodged (actually there were 8 if one counts the list of appellants further down the document) … in March 2010. That is right, 8 appeals were lodged in March 2010.
In other words, DAFF took 12 months to administer and no doubt “apply their collective minds” to 7 (err 8) appeals. 8 appeals in 12 months amounts to less than 1 appeal a month!
There is less than 2 years to go before the next round of fishing quota allocations in some of the most lucrative and important sectors such as squid, line fish, hake handline, tuna long line, abalone, sharks, etc. In 2005, these sectors contributed about 1900 applications in total. Assuming DAFF more than doubles its efforts and evaluates 2 applications per month, it will take them about 79 years to conclude the application process for just these handful of sectors – there are 22 commercial fisheries, by the way.
We must however warn readers that DAFF has not even yet begun to even evaluate the successes or failure of the 2005 sector specific objectives (generally called an M&E process in industry parlance), let alone considered new policies or begun the consultation process for drafting new policies. It is worth noting that before the final acceptance by Cabinet of the 2005 fishery policies, the policy development process had commenced shortly after the finalisation of the 2001/2002 medium term rights allocation process and an independent M&E process on the impact of quota allocations on various sectors.
There are two possible scenarios as to what DAFF will do come the next allocation process. The first is what they did with the oyster and mussel sectors – nothing and simply allowed the fishing rights to lapse and then mismanage the sectors via “exemptions” – a euphemism for extreme laziness and/or gross incompetence. Of course both sectors, if managed well could have contributed immensely to the development of small-scale or artisinal fishers as stated in the policy objectives for both sectors. But of course those developmental objectives are no match for gross incompetence and populist rhetoric and propaganda which take little effort and no intelligence of course.
The second option (equally as likely as the first, I must admit) is that fishing rights will simply be reallocated in a mad panic for a minimal period to address the “challenges” they will no doubt allude to when the time comes.