THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT HAS BEEN RECEIVED BY EHOWZIT, FOLLOWING A REQUEST FOR COMMENT ON THE REPORT WE AIRED LAST WEEK ON THE MEETING BETWEEN EZEMVELO KZN WILDLIFE AND FISHERMEN AT THE SHELLY BEACH SKI-BOAT CLUB ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A MARINE PROTECTION AREA FROM PORT SHEPSTONE TO MUNSTER. VARIOUS INTEREST GROUPS, INCLUDING UGU SOUTH COAST TOURISM, HAVE EXPRESSED ALARM BECAUSE THEY HAD NOT BEEN INVITED TO THE MEETING TO GIVE THEIR VIEWS. THE CONSENSUS OF OPINION IS AN MPA COULD CAUSE SERIOUS HARM TO TOURISM ON THE HIBISCUS COAST:
MARINE PROTECTED AREA REPORT
This report is a response to the journalist and Mr Anton Getz who formed part of the interview on eHowzit conducted on the 4th of October. It should be noted that the meeting that the two referred to was a focused meeting with the local fishing groups in order to obtain inputs and gather comments on a proposed Marine Protected Area (MPA) within the Protea Banks region. The meeting formed part of a larger engagement process where all interested and affected parties will be given an opportunity to give inputs and provide comments.
The aim of these preliminary consultations is to obtain information from local experts to be used in preparing the marine protected area proposals that are planned to be published in the Government Gazette in March for public comment. The key stakeholders being consulted at this time are therefore being given an opportunity to help in shaping the proposal, and to highlight any critical issues or impacts a protected area might have (both negative and positive) so that these can be taken into consideration at the outset. The proposal presented at the meeting highlighted the area identified as having important habitats and species unique to South Africa and worth protecting, and is not a finalised Protected Area.
Thus, only a notice of “intent to declare protected areas” is planned to be published in March 2015. This will mark the start of a full public consultation process, which will involve at least 60 days for people to submit formal comment as well as public meetings and workshops where people will be able to engage directly with the DEA and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo) officials to discuss the proposals, provide information and comments. Key stakeholders will therefore have a further opportunity to state their views and opinions once the proposals have been formally announced in March 2015. All comments and suggestions will be considered before any specific MPA is declared (legally proclaimed) as part of the national MPA network, which we hope will be in March 2016.
Some additional facts and information are presented below
The need for increased protection of the marine environment of KwaZulu-Natal
The marine environment of KwaZulu-Natal is heavily used for many different activities such as tourism (diving, swimming, boating), recreational fishing (such as spear-fishing, ski-boat fishing and rock and surf anglers) and commercial fishing (line and trawling). More recently new formal uses are emerging. The newly published national small-scale fishing policy aims to provide access to previously marginalized subsistence fishers, and there is now strong interest in mining the sea-bed for minerals, as well as oil and gas exploration and production.