This is a letter that was issued by the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in 2007 after a decision was made on fishing in the Tsitsikamma MPA:
Decision on Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area: Minister Maintains status quo
27 November 2007
The Tsitsikamma National Park Marine Protected Area (MPA) is the oldest Marine Protected Area in Africa. Its marine life is one of our most important national assets. In addition, this MPA is a refuge for breeding populations of a number of over-exploited line fish species. The park and MPA are also major tourist attractions. It is visited by more than 200 000 people per annum.
In order to protect and grow marine resources local communities have, since 1975, been progressively excluded from fishing in the Tsitsikamma MPA. In 2000, because of the collapse in line fish stocks, my predecessor decided that no fishing whatsoever would in future be permitted in this MPA.
MPAs are a key part of our strategy to manage vulnerable eco-systems in a sustainable way. They are the life-support system critically needed to resuscitate ailing oceans and collapsing fish stocks. They provide a refuge for fish, and indeed all marine species, to increase in quantity, size and reproductive output. MPAs also increase catches outside reserves as juveniles migrate. Because of our determined and forward-looking approach, South Africa today counts amongst the world leaders in implementing the goals set at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development - 18% of South Africa's coastline falls within formal protected areas.
It is, inter alia, against this background that I duly considered recent proposals for the opening of parts of the Tsitsikamma MPA for recreational fishing. In considering the issues at stake, I met with local leaders and personally visited the area in October. I also requested Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) to advise me on the matter. DEAT recommended that limited fishing in the MPA be allowed, albeit on an experimental basis (for a period of 12 months) and exclusively to local fishers who are members of the local angling forum.
After careful consideration of this proposal, I have decided to uphold the status quo by not allowing any fishing in the MPA. The reasons for originally closing the MPA in 2000 and the prevailing underlying circumstances have not changed. It is important to note that this decision will not have an impact on food security in the area as the issue dealt with is a matter of recreational fishing.
At a fundamental level, the establishment of 'no-take' MPAs are in line with our well-considered and justified World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) commitments as well as our general fisheries management approach. We have a core responsibility to manage our fish stock sustainable for the benefit of future generations. In doing that, we must balance the need for equitable development today with the right of future generations to be able to do the same.
Opening this MPA to recreational fishing will set a dangerous precedent in a conservation area that is closed to all, for the benefit of all. Allowing a few people access for recreational purposes would negate the benefits that accrue to all South Africans. A decision to open this MPA would effectively have signalled a broader shift in policy on the part of government and the beginning of a new approach that is neither sustainable nor in line with our stated objectives.
In addition, opening the MPA would undermine its biological sustainability. Certain line fish species are already managed as an 'emergency.' The impact of catches in the MPA will lead to a decline in abundance because many of the resident fish species are slow growing. This, in turn, will reduce the effectiveness of the reproduction potential and distribution of eggs and larvae therefore diluting the pool of reproductive fish as well as the availability of fish outside of the MPA. Line fish catches in particular, have collapsed almost everywhere along our coastline. Simply put - there is insufficient breeding fish to replenish line fish stocks. Only MPAs hold these breeding fish in sufficient quantities to provide for new fish recruitment. If the MPAs themselves are opened to fishing, the entire national fishery will be further jeopardised.
Finally, it was also clear to me that, because of various practical constraints and peculiarities, it will be extremely difficult for effective compliance measures to be put in place to ensure that fishing activities comply with permit conditions. This will further expose the MPA to unnecessary risk.
In conclusion, opening the MPA will no doubt make a few people happy in the short-term. In the long-term, there will be a greater loss to the eco-system as a whole. That loss will be shared by many more South Africans. MPAs are a short-term sacrifice for a worthwhile long-term gain. Opening the MPA for the exclusive use by a few will bring into question the value of MPAs by the remainder of fisherfolk. I therefore call on local communities to respect this decision. It is in the interest of the whole nation and long term sustainable and equitable growth and development. In this instance I do not want to put at further risk the interests of fisherfolk who rely on line fish for a livelihood by giving access to recreational fishers to an important breeding ground of many of our line-fish species.
Cell: 083 778 9923
Issued by: Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
27 November 2007
Here is the link: http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2007/07112714151001.htm
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I hope this is still the situation in 2010! Any feedback from SANParks on this issue?