Feb 4, 2016
WESSA opposes bid to open Tsitsikamma MPA to fishing
WESSA is strongly opposed to the recent bid to open the Tsitsikamma National Park Marine Protected Area to recreational and subsistence fishing as we believe that this move would endanger our national fish stocks.
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The National Department of Environmental Affairs (the DEA) has made this proposal at the behest of disadvantaged rural communities in the coastal area surrounding the Marine Protected Area (MPA), who historically fished this coastline but whose fishing access has been completely denied since 2001.
The DEA has previously made two attempts, in 2007 and 2010, to open this MPA to fishing at the behest of these communities. Then as now WESSA remains strongly opposed to permitting any form of fishing in the Tsitsikamma MPA, as we are certain that this would significantly compromise this critical marine biodiversity area.
The vital importance of no-take MPAs in conserving fish broodstocks and in being able to set sustainable fishing quotas is globally acknowledged in fisheries management.
The Tsitsikamma MPA is a refuge for eleven of South Africa's seventeen threatened fish species and encompasses essential breeding grounds for the line-fish and squid fisheries, according to research by WWF-SA’s Living Waters Partnership.
Outside of the Tsitsikamma and other MPAs our fish stocks have been severely over-exploited, some close to the point of total collapse. The refuge populations in the MPAs are the last remaining healthy broodstock, which seeds the denuded coastline with juvenile fish. The greater size and maturity of fish protected within MPAs ensures that they can produce a considerably greater number of viable offspring than the sparse populations in unprotected areas.
While WESSA is cognisant and empathetic of the complex issues surrounding the access by disadvantaged rural communities to marine resources, we believe that the marine biodiversity protected within the Tsitsikamma National Park MPA is of immense value to the nation as a whole and that its protected status should not be compromised by the needs of a few.
Morgan Griffiths, WESSA’s Environmental Governance spokesperson, says: “We have over-utilised most of our finite natural resources to such an extent that there is now simply not enough left to satisfy everyone’s wants and needs. We now need to make these difficult choices about who gets what limited access to these dwindling resources. Who has the greater need? What is the greater good that needs to be objectively protected?”
WESSA has written to the National Department of Environmental Affairs with an official objection against permitting fishing in this area. This may be read via this link.