The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality is bidding on hosting the 2021 stopover for The Ocean Race. One of the proposed areas for the bivalve and finned fish farm facility is close to the Bell Buoy and potentially slap bang in the middle of the race area.
Granted the yachts have to avoid other man made structures in other ports and countries but the thought of a fish farm in an acknowledged watersport mecca area is kinda like watching your dog make a lumpy doo doo on your pure white Afghan Rug…
Algoa Bay, especially its near-shore, is a unique water-sport destination. A long-established destination for surfing, life-saving, snorkelling/diving and sailing, over the last decade or so it’s been building its reputation as a place for open water swimming and paddling.
Its uniqueness arises from a complex mix of natural features: a relatively shallow near-shore, the shape of the bay itself, prevailing winds and waves, the Agulhas current flowing past, water temperature, its reefs and sand movement amongst other combine to create the ideal spot for sea enthusiasts.
That ecosystem is why Nippers, IronMan, Ocean Series, the Bellbuoy Open Water Swim, Provincial, National and World Sailing Championships as well as various surfing championships choose Algoa Bay to host their events.
That ecosystem is under a potential threat. The government department responsible for fisheries (now Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry – DAFF) is planning to apply for permission to zone parts of the Bay for aquaculture (fish farms) use. This is a new application. The previous application in 2011 was suspended in 2015 and isn’t being pursued any longer.
They envisage three areas. A fish farm site (Algoa 1) that is centred 2,5 to 4km off Pollock Beach, but extends from just short of Kings Beach through to Pine Lodge, another fish farm site (Algoa 7) that sits between Ngqura Harbour wall and St Croix Island and is 4km’s from St George’s Strand/Wells Estate/Bluewater Bay, and 5 additional bivalve (think oysters) farms north of PE harbour.
But their plan (known as a BAR – Basics Assessment Report) is missing key pieces of the puzzle. They haven’t done the necessary homework. Put a single fish cage in the water close to the beaches and people will stop swimming in the sea. The events will stop. DAFF know that the fish farms are likely to create a new food source for sharks that pose a risk to humans but argue that monitoring of sharks will solve it. No way. But sharks are not the real risk. The real risk lies for those who are employed in the hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, restaurants, shops, transport, cleaning and other businesses that rely on our beaches being clean and safe and the sport events that use the nearshore. Despite agreeing in the 2015 appeal to go away and assess that risk, DAFF have not done so.
Read up on the problems with fish farms at Reunion Island, Washington State’s Atlantic Salmon farms, the Chile Fish Farms or even our own prawn farm that now is a dilapidated ruin and the lesson is clear: fish farms only work if you understand the whole puzzle. And a Marine Spatial Plan is best placed to do that, it’s on its way for our Bay, but DAFF isn’t waiting, they’re forging ahead. They’re ignoring key bits of feedback from their own experts, they’re side-stepping warnings by marine scientists who know the Bay, and their complicated risk formula ignores the blindingly obvious feedback from the public – put a cage in the water and the perception of the beaches and surf changes immediately. There isn’t a viable way to mitigate that impact.
But there’s an alternative. There’s no need for DAFF to bring a fight to the Bay. Estuaries are the natural nurseries of fish stock that have been providing livelihoods for our small-scale fishing communities for generations. Rehabilitate the Swartkops Estuary, restore its place in the puzzle of our Bay and everyone benefits. It’s a no-brainer. But DAFF seem to be locked into only one solution.
It’s up to us as people who love our Bay to say, no way, there’s a better way. No to the DAFF fish farms in Algoa Bay. Yes, to celebrating our Bay, yes to rehabilitating the Swartkops Estuary.
So please join us on Saturday 13 July at Hobie Beach. We aim to start at 09:00. Please get the message out far and wide. It is weather dependant so we may need to postpone on the day, but we’ll keep you updated
Queries can be directed to Ralph West at 082 806 3030. For administrative and compliance purposes the event will take place under the banner of Adventure Swims ZA.
Other ways to help are:
Post your pic’s of our Bay under the hashtags: #NoDAFFfishyfarm #MyBaymyDay #SavetheBay
Sign the petition at: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/community_petitions/DAFF__No_to_Fish_Farms_in_Algoa_Bay_Yes_to_rehabilitating_the_Swartkops_Estuary/
Also visit the Algoa Bay Hope Spot Facebook Page (https://web.facebook.com/algoabayhopespot/) for more information on how you can get involved, look out for upcoming WESSA Algoa Bay Branch events and visit https://www.zwartkopsconservancy.org for more on our awesome estuary.