The industry came under the spotlight in Mossel Bay last year after the death of three Bryde's whales suspected to have been trapped by octopus fishing gear, but nothing came of the investigation.
"Investigations are currently underway to identify those responsible for damaging the fishing equipment, with both boat-based recreational and commercial fishermen being investigated. Legal charges will be brought against them with jail terms a possibility," says Shrosbree.
The investigation includes the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (Daff) who oversees all fishing in South Africa. "Daff and the octopus rights holders will be applying the full might of the law in this regard and will not stop until these perpetrators are apprehended."
"The sector being targeted by the vandals is the Exploratory Octopus Fishery, through which Daff has been attempting, along with permit holders, to establish a sustainable and long-term octopus Vulgaris fishery, for over 20 years.
A recent article in the Daily Maverick following the spate of whale fatalities in Mossel Bay and False Bay due to entanglement, slammed the industry as an unscientific scam in which vulnerable marine species are wiped out for a food source that goes to China.
"The owner of the fishery has stated that data has been handed to DAFF, but there has been no independent verification of this either. With no researcher or scientist or even an observer on the octopus fishing boat, what kind of data has been collected at all?"An experimental fishery is also not meant to be a commercial operation, and yet between 30 to 40 tons of octopus is being exported to China every year. In 2018 one kilogram of Octopus vulgaris from Morocco fetched about $14. It must be similar or quite close to the same price here, as it is the same kind of octopus that is being fished.
The temporary suspension of the industry by Minister Barbara Creecy is hopefully part of a comprehensive investigation into, and new legislative measures being implemented to protect South Africa's coveted marine life and eco-systems.
"Our decision is taken following widespread public concern regarding recent whale entanglements in the False Bay area which has resulted in the untimely and cruel death of these magnificent creatures," Creecy said in a statement.
South Africa's near 3,000 kilometre coastline is a rich ecosystem, famed for its diversity and attractions, including great white sharks, seal and penguin colonies, and whales, the latter of which is a major tourist attraction.
Mossel Bay is one of only a few coastal towns where various species of the Marine Big Five - whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins - still abound. Maybe the temporary banning of octopus fishing in False Bay should be extended to include Mossel Bay and Walvis Bay too, as both harbour towns are already under severe threat of industrialization, oil and gas tankers, illegal longliners and risky experiments with fish meal plants and deep-sea aquaculture farming.