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Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area resoned, open for fishing


Cape Town – Despite public outcry and pushback from various South African conservationists, SA’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa has officially approved the resoning of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA) to allow limited fishing by members of local communities.

The Tsitsikamma National Park Marine Protected Area Declaration Notice was published in the Government Gazette 40510 while the regulations were published in the Government Gazette 40511 on Monday, 19 December 2016, SANParks announced on Tuesday, 20 December.  

South African National Parks (SANParks) will be the regulating authority ensuring the fishing in the MPA is done in accordance with the law. 

According to Zolile Nqayi, director of communications for the DEA, the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area was the only MPA with a complete ‘no-take’ or no fishing policy in SA. Other areas, like the Paulsberg Marine Protected Area in Cape Town, allow fishing, if done in accordance with the law, outside of the outlined no-take zones. 

Difficult to police 

Policing and implementing the rules for fishing in the MPA’s has been a controversial issue of late, and may point to similar problems at the newly resoned Tsitsikamma MPA in future. 

Earlier in December, wildlife and conservation photographer, Scott Ramsay spotted illegal fishing from the coastline above the Paulsberg MPA’s no-take zone. “No fishing or extraction or exploitation of marine resources of any kind is allowed 1,8km directly east from Venus Pool,” Ramsay said at the time. But a photograph he shared showed at least 30 fishing boats within the no-take zone.

He questioned 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 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.”

Long, controversial process concludes 

The resoning of the Tsitsikamma MPA has been a highly contested issue over the past 12 months. In January this year, the DEA was ordered by the High Court to cease the recreational angling pilot project in the Tsitsikamma MPA with immediate effect

The pilot was initially supposed to run until March 2016, but was ceased SANParks and the Tsitsikamma Angling Forum (representatives of the Tsitsikamma fishing community) reached a settlement agreement with the Friends of the Tsitsikamma Association to stop the pilot recreational angling project. 

Shortly thereafter, SANParks had to intervene when Tsitsikamma anglers threatened hikers on the Otter Trail. The community anglers threatened violence against tourists and hikers in the area in bid to spur the DEA on in opening up parts of the Tsitsikamma MPA. 

Now, with the DEA’s approving of the resonation of the Tsitsikamma MPA to allow limited fishing by members of local communities, the regulations grant permission for local communities to fish 20% of the coastline in three areas of the MPA.

According to Nandi Mgwadlamba for the Garden Route National Park, “the three fishing sites are not even close to the rest camp”. 

“The resonation follows an extensive public participation process,” SANParks says, “including extended engagements with local communities. This included consideration of the socio-economic circumstances of the area concerned as well as the biological resources of the area.”

According to SANParks, there are three objectives of the resonation: 

Marine biodiversity conservation

Direct community benefits – reasonable access to the MPA and its biological resources

Indirect community benefits – socio-economic opportunities, such as local jobs and tourism development 

“Members of the local communities around the Tsitsikamma MPA have been excluded from fishing in the MPA to increasing degrees since 1975,” SANParks says. “The regulations seek to provide equitable access to marine resources for local communities.”

The Park will commence with the registration process of local fishermen on 27 December 2016.

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