Coast KZN

25 Aug 2016

Marine protected areas ‘not solution’

Lisa Isaacs

Tagging officer Stuart Dunlop gets ready to release a speckled snapper at Bhanga Nek on the northern KwaZulu-Natal coast. The marker tag is visible just below the spiny dorsal fin.

A world-renowned fisheries expert has challenged South Africa’s marine protected area expansion strategy, saying closing off areas of the ocean is not the solution to overfishing.

Ray Hilborn, a professor of aquatic and fishery science at the University of Washington, and recipient of the World Council of Fisheries Societies’ award for his contributions to global fisheries science and conservation, is to present a seminar on “Fisheries Myths” at UCT today.

Tomorrow Hilborn will debate the issue of MPAs with local experts at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

In February this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs published draft regulations for the declaration of a network of 22 new marine protected areas.

According to Hilborn, myths have generated a belief that fisheries management needs to be more conservative and more of the ocean needed to be closed to fishing. But he says calls for more ocean protection are being made at a time when fishing pressure has declined dramatically.

In fact, where fisheries management is applied, such as in South Africa’s deep-sea trawl fishery, stocks are stable or increasing, sensitive habitats are being protected and bycatch is being greatly reduced.

“In South Africa, the rebuilding of the Cape hake stocks is globally acknowledged as a resounding success. The hake fishery is not only certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council, it also provides 7 050 jobs in coastal areas and plays an important role in food security, most notably in the Western Cape, where low-value species caught alongside hake (like snoek and panga) provide lowcost, high-protein meals,” Hilborn said.

In the desire to create an oceanic paradise, advocates of marine protected areas must consider that the world’s poorest people relied on marine fisheries for nutrition and income, he said. Rather, a sound fisheries management framework provided the opportunity to identify problems and solve them, usually through a participatory process that involved many stakeholders.

Deputy Director-General of Environmental Affairs Monde Mayekiso said the department would engage with Hilborn at tomorrow’s debate.

“The DEA supports MPAs, which is why we published 22 MPAs we would like to proclaim.”

On completion of this process, South Africa was likely to have 5% of the country’s ocean territory protected, he said.

“It is just one tool in the management of our resources.

“We have got a mixed bag (of resources) in South Africa. Our deep-sea hake stocks are stable, but I cannot say the same for abalone. It fluctuates depending on the resource we look at.”


Online Article