Cape Town – South Africa’s waters are rich with ocean wildlife but it won’t stay that way if our mapped marine protected areas are ignored – as was the case in the Paulsberg Marine Protected Area, part of the Table Mountain National park on the False Bay coast recently.
According to wildlife and conservation photographer Scott Ramsay, he went walking on Sunday morning 27th November 2016, along the coastline above this MPA “no-take” zone.
“No fishing or extraction or exploitation of marine resources of any kind is allowed 1,8km directly east from Venus Pool,” says Ramsay, yet he spotted at least 30 fishing boats within the no-take zone.
Ramsay questions where the law enforcers of this MPA were, stating he also “tried calling the law enforcement telephone number on the board at Venus Pool, but the number was wrong”.
Ramsay who has documented all of SA’s national parks through his photography says “SANparks generally do a good job at conservation but there are some instances where they don’t do well and this is one of them.”
Ramsay estimates according to maps the MPA extends 1,8kms out from Venus Pool and based on the length of Venus Pool (about 25 metres), the boats closest to Venus Pool were about 300m from the shoreline.
“My demarcation of the MPA is an estimate, but probably conservative? It seems as if at least 31 of the 39 boats were within the MPA,” says Ramsay.
Adding to the outrage on Sunday is conservation photographer Jean Tresfon who happened to be flying over the same area on Sunday, when he spotted the same ‘fleet’ of boats.
Tresfon posted the above image to Facebook saying, “To slightly alter an old saying, every silver lining has a cloud! And the only figurative cloud on the horizon during our epic flight on Sunday to document the humpback whale aggregation was seeing this… Roughly 30 boats fishing inside the Paulsberg Sanctuary (No-Take) Zone within the Table Mountain Marine Protected Area.”
‘Not the first time’
Tresfon told Traveller24 that this is not the first time he seen fishermen ignoring the no-take zone. What he finds hard to understand is that Paulsberg MPA is probably the only one that surrounds a major metropolitan area and as such the policing and enforcement effort should be that much better.
Tresfon questions why it appears as if patrol officials appear to police the soft targets such as himself, rather than enforce and protect the areas that really need it.
He states as a diver he is not allowed to take his boat into certain areas, as soon as he is spotted he gets checked for a permit, which can sometimes take weeks to arrange.
‘Not your typical diver’
“I understand that I’m not your typical diver, and would love to but at the same time nature conservation photographers are made to feel like criminals, yet as fisherman you can do what you like.”
“I admit it must be dangerous to enforce the rules in these areas with some fisherman, but in my opinion it feels like the rangers appear very selective about what they policed.
“The system feels punitive, as if they’re policing the soft targets and that it’s more about revenue generation than resource protection.”
About 18 months ago Tresfon says he spotted some 100 boats fishing in the sanctuary zone in the area, with the red and white patrol vessel amongst it.
Tresfon says, while the patrol vessel was checking for permits it should have been telling them to leave the no-take zone.
When he complained to the authorities, the explanation he was given was that without a GPS it was difficult to monitor the area. But Tresfon refutes this saying if he and Ramsay can identify it through natural landmarks those meant to be protecting the area should also be able to do so.
“Yet almost a year later SANParks as the appointed management agent still does not seem able to perform their appointed duty to protect this area.”
‘Established to protect the red fish population of False Bay’
Tresfon says “The Paulsberg Zone was established to protect the red fish population of False Bay which has been almost completely fished out. And yet there are those whose sense of entitlement shows no regard for the conservation of the very animals that secure their livelihood…”
“This is a complete no-take zone. There is no special dispensation for the catching of pelagic species here. The rules are clear, no fishing is allowed!”
Peter Chadwick, a full time conservationist who previously ran the WWF marine protected areas programme and now operates as an independent consultant echoed the sentiment that this is an ongoing issue that needs integral focus from high up.
“This is the continuous issue around the Table Mountain National Park and SANParks and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are not meeting their obligations.”
“It shows a blatant disregard and nullifies and value of the MPA at the end of the day. These areas are crucial to ensure long term sustainability for the industry and for the whole SA public at the end of the day, with fishing community largely relying on MPAs as a seed source for their livelihood.”
‘Lack of enforcement and adherence’
Chadwick says he does not feel MPA have been afforded the protection they deserve; He attributes avoidance conflict with the fishermen themselves as well as a lack of focus and leadership as the root cause.
“The complexity to this issue centres around management authority not fulfilling their obligations, there is funding available and there has always been so to enforce marine protected Marine, yet the unit dedicated to the this particular MPA has all but been disbanded.
“Leadership posts were not filed and lots of expertise has been lost”, all due to a lack of focus and attention from the top down he says.
Traveller24 has contacted both SANParks and the department of environmental affairs for feedback on the process as well as the correct contact numbers to report any contraventions of MPAs but has yet to receive a response.