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MosselbayonTheline | First With The News

While the biggest worldwide campaign in recorded history took place this weekend to protect the planet and its natural resources from irresponsible and heedless industrialization for capital gain, Mossel Bay is also at a crossroad between conservation and risky industrialization . . . and the twines shall never meet when nature's laws are deliberately ignored and defied.

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Dolphins frolic next to bathers at Boggomsbaai. Photo: Albie Spies

Regular beach cleanups, awareness talks and even the annual celebration of World Environment Day on 5 June with the theme Eat, Think, Save seem to be nothing but a condescending and hypocritical farce when the organisers of these events are the main culprits and the same governments, politicians and policymakers whose decisions and legislation pose the biggest threat to the environment.

The greater Mossel Bay coastline is one of the few pristine coastal areas in the country that still boasts a healthy marine life and eco-system. Maybe it is time that Mossel Bay's leaders and residents take a stance and walk the talk to conserve and protect this priceless heritage for generations to come.

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Bottlenose dolphins swimming at Dana Bay. Photo: Pierre Conradie

While persistent talks and plans for a fish meal plant and aquaculture zone in Mossel Bay's waters (similar to that in Saldanha Bay) continue behind the scenes, West Coast residents are heading for the Cape High Court to save the Langebaan Lagoon from the devastating impact of an "experimental" industrial-scale aquaculture development zone (ADZ) of 884 hectares a mere km from the lagoon.

The latter is a coveted watersport and tourist Mecca and an accredited Ramsar wetland site of international importance in recognition of its immense biodiversity value. 

Kitesurfing Langebaan1

The Langebaan Lagoon is a tourist magnet and one of the best kitesurfing spots in the world.  

The action group Save Langebaan Lagoon is hoping to have the authorization of these ADZ plans in Saldanha Bay (part of former pres. Jacob Zuma's notorious Operation Phakisa project) reviewed and reversed in the Cape High Court.

They claim open cage farming of alien salmon and rainbow trout, as well as mussel and oyster cultivation on giant floating rafts and long lines, poses an untenable risk of irreversible damage to the wild populations of migratory birds, fish, marine mammal and plant life.

The group stated that apart from the proven negative environmental impact on a sensitive marine ecosystem and indigenous fish species, the developers have failed to weigh their unsubstantiated claims of job creation against the considerable job losses if the tourism-based economy collapses. It will also impact on the livelihood of the local fishing community if they are denied access to the fishing waters which sustained them for generations.  

Langebaan seals in cages

The seal population in the Saldanha Bay area has allegedly already tripled since the first aquaculture cages for alien salmon and rainbow trout were installed despite strong public objections and a pending court case. 

The outcome of the pending court case is considered to be a watershed ruling to determine the future of huge sea-based aquaculture operations along South Africa's coastline.

This comes after a contentious proposal to build a salmon farm in Betty's Bay was withdrawn earlier this year due to the sensitivity of the marine ecosystem and amid a renewed flurry of international exposure of and objections to irregularities and shocking governance scandals in this lucrative, but very contentious industry. These include the excessive use of antibiotics, a dependence on wild fish stocks for feed, misrepresentation of chemical use, data rigging and poor governance.

The latest scandal in the industry is "greenwashing" - a tendency to cut corners and to give products a veneer of sustainability. An example is the Chilean salmon-farming company, Nova Austral, whose biggest marketing line was that its salmon is antibiotic-free (a great selling point), while it deliberately misreported its fish mortality data to regulators. Its salmon were dying in alarming numbers that had been hidden from the public.

 https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2019-08-01/patagonia-fishery-rigs-data-and-sparks-a-crisis

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The pristine coastline at Betty's Bay. A proposal to build a sea-based salmon farm here was withdrawn due to the sensitive marine ecosystem and strong public resistance. 

Is Mossel Bay next?

While international concern is steadily growing regarding the nutritional value and health risks of aqua-cultured products, the sustainability of the paradoxical industry by killing healthy wild fish to feed caged fish and the undisputed ecological damage it causes, the economic risks are equally daunting - especially in South Africa where it is still a rookie-business and the coastal conditions not suited for large-scaled sea-based finfish farming. We have warned in previous articles that the proposed fishmeal and oil plant in Quay1 in the harbour may well be a planned precursor to an aquaculture "experiment" with cod, but at what cost to the environment and who is to gain? 

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“We thought that farmed fish would save our wild stocks in the oceans, but now it’s coming to the fore that we are using wild-caught fish to feed our farmed fish – and that is causing real problems.”

"Nearly one-fifth of global fisheries production is used for fishmeal and fish oil production."

"Investors should be aware of the sustainability risks in the aquaculture sector before they wade in too deeply. From effluents to emissions, this sector must address significant environmental and public health challenges if it is to prosper over the long term.”

* Sewage and wastewater discharged from fish farms is also associated with toxic algal blooms and polluted drinking water. Earlier this year, Norway suffered its worst algal bloom in 30 years, with 8 million salmon killed so far. Algal blooms caused an estimated $800m in damage to the Chilean salmon industry in 2016, killing nearly 27m fish, about 20% of the country’s annual production, according to a report.

* Hotspots of antibiotic use in fish farming accelerate antimicrobial resistance, the report found, with some countries taking action against importers. In January this year, the US Food and Drug administration denied entry to 26 shipments of Indian shrimp, after detecting banned antibiotics.

Furthermore, most experts agree that the South African coastline is not suited for sea-based fish farming and that there are indeed only a very few "ecologically less sensitive coastal areas" that might be suited for such a risky industry on a pilot-scale IF strict regulation and environmental management are enforced. Rough and unpredictable sea conditions, the prolific presence of orcas, whales, sharks and seals, as well as the frequent occurrence of red tide, are just a few of the problems.

Orcas Mama and babe

 In an interview on Cape Talk Radio, prof. Peter Britz admits that the South African coastline does not have the right conditions for industrial-sized aquaculture farming in the sea. (Scroll down to listen to the voice clip.) 

There's a myriad of issues that the potential fish farmer faces that can impact on the farm and the potential impacts of the farm on the environment.

Peter Britz, Professor in the department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University

He advises that farmers rather start on a pilot scale before becoming commercial because of the risks involved.

Aquaculture guru Prof Peter Britz explains the challenges of fish farming after the bid for a Betty's Bay salmon farm was pulled.

Aquaculture and fisheries specialist Professor Peter Britz says regulation and environmental management is crucial in growing the fish farming industry in South Africa.

A contentious proposal to build a salmon farm in Betty's Bay has been withdrawn and a more suitable and less environmentally sensitive site has apparently been identified.

Read: Langebaan locals outraged by proposed fish farms on the lagoon

Prof Britz says there are very few suitable environmental sites for aquaculture on the South African coast, despite the growing need for farming fish in the country.

This, he argues, is because the coastline does not have the right conditions which are suitable for aquaculture

Potential fish farmers have to be aware of environmental issues caused by the use of artificial upwelling for fish farming include low oxygen conditions, diseases and red tides.

 

Peter Britz, Professor in the department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University

 http://www.capetalk.co.za/articles/334956/here-s-why-fish-farming-in-sa-can-be-tricky-business?

 

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Save Langebaan Lagoon's pending court case against the department of forestry, agriculture and fisheries (DAFF) is the culmination of an epic battle since February 2017.

Save Langebaan Lagoon logo

SLL, a registered NGO, has challenged,  objected, educated, researched, organised and mobilised tirelessly throughout the initial public participation and  Environmental Impact Assessment processes with scientifically-supported evidence against DAFF's application. Notwithstanding, in January 2018, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) granted authorisations to the applicants to proceed with the industrial-scale fish-farming development. 

In response thereto, SLL submitted an unsuccessful appeal against such authorisations to the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa.

SLL has now taken the bold step of pursuing a judicial review of the Minister’s decision, in the Cape High Court.

In addition to DAFF’s application for authorisation from the Department of Environmental Affairs, two private fishing consortiums, Molapong Aquaculture and Southern Cross Aquaculture also successfully submitted applications for commercial aquaculture operations within the ADZ.

  

This important fight for environmental and socio-economic justice is not only a critical issue for all sectors of the Langebaan community, but is equally a pressing issue of provincial and national importance.

 

Kitesurfing Langebaan

 * Save Langebaan Lagoon

NPO No. 212-102
HIGH COURT ACTION TO SAVE ICONIC LAGOON FROM ECOLOGICAL DISASTER

Extract from our media briefing held at the Bay Hotel - 30th August 2019

No fish farming in Langebaan Lagoon – Not Now, Not Ever!

Cape Town, August 2019 – A “David vs Goliath” battle is set to unfold in the Cape High Court when local public interest group Save Langebaan Lagoon takes on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). Save Langebaan Lagoon is launching a colossal bid to save the pristine Langebaan lagoon from commercial fish farming that is set to destroy this treasured jewel of the West Coast.

The Langebaan Lagoon was designated as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention on the 25th April 1988, in recognition of its immense biodiversity value.

Only 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, the lagoon is a burgeoning tourist hotspot, driving economic growth in the region. This unique natural heritage site is now under threat of irreversible, ecological degradation by plans to develop an industrial scale (884 hectares), sea-based Aquaculture Development Zone (ADZ).

The ADZ will be located a mere kilometre off Langebaan’s pristine coastline, in the bay waters shared by Langebaan and Saldanha Bay, which co-mingle with the waters of the Langebaan Lagoon. This sea-based ADZ is a project that falls under the auspices of former pres. Jacob Zuma's notorious Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy), a National Development Plan initiative to accelerate economic growth and prosperity.

In addition to DAFF’s application for authorisation from the Department of Environmental Affairs, two private fishing consortiums, Molapong Aquaculture and Southern Cross Aquaculture also successfully submitted applications for commercial aquaculture operations within the ADZ.


The developers have failed to weigh their unsubstantiated claims of job creation against the considerable job losses that will occur when the tourism-based economy of Langebaan collapses, due to the negative impacts of fish farming on this protected marine ecosystem.

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Moreover, the proposed development overlaps significantly with the area traditionally fished by Langebaan’s indigenous small-scale fishers. The development will compound the economic vulnerability of the local fishing community, preventing them from accessing the waters that have provided their livelihoods for generations.

Despite Save Langebaan Lagoon’s scientifically-supported opposition throughout the Environmental Impact Assessment process, in January 2018, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) granted authorisations to the applicants to proceed with the industrial-scale fish-farming development.

In response thereto, SLL submitted an unsuccessful appeal against such authorisations to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, (the late Minister Edna Molewa). SLL has now taken the bold step of pursuing a judicial review of the Minister’s decision, in the Cape High Court.

What will fish farming do to the Lagoon?

Open cage farming of alien salmon and rainbow trout, as well as mussel and oyster cultivation on giant floating rafts and long lines, poses an untenable risk of irreversible damage to the wild populations of migratory birds, fish, marine mammal and plant life.

Langebaan seals in cages2

Many of these species are currently threatened or endangered. The protected wetlands of the lagoon provide a world-renowned bird-watchers’ paradise. Habitats, flight paths and feeding patterns will be negatively impacted by the aquaculture infrastructure and the inevitable water pollution.

Sixty years of global aquaculture experience and a weighty body of peer-reviewed scientific research, show the destructive impact on the marine ecology due to the toxic accumulation of fish faecal matter and feed waste, antibiotics and hormones used to treat the fish and anti-fouling chemicals for the cages. The rapidly growing opposition to sea-based aquaculture around the world has not been given any formal consideration by the developers.

 

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Save Langebaan Lagoon (SLL) was formed in February 2017 to oppose this threat. They launched a vibrant social media driven community awareness campaign that has garnered the signatures of 32 000 people for their petition. In the two and a half years of vigorously opposing the ADZ, they have raised over R550 000 to generate independent research reports to counter the findings of the BARs. SLL is not intrinsically opposed to aquaculture, and is mindful that the commercial cultivation of fish, when sited in a low-risk environment and conducted in a sustainable way (e.g. an on-shore facility), could yield economic and employment benefits. SLL’s opposition centres on the fact that this aquaculture development is to be implemented in the fragile marine ecosystem of the Lagoon, a plan that poses irreversible socio-economic and ecological damage.

Call to Action:

Expert legal assessment of the merits of the case shows that SLL has a good prospect of success. SLL has therefore retained the well-respected environmental law firm of Cullinan and Associates to challenge the development in the High Court. SLL urgently needs to strengthen its constituency of support, as litigation costs are likely to be as high as R2.5 million.

This important fight for environmental and socio-economic justice is not only a critical issue for all sectors of the Langebaan community, but is equally a pressing issue of provincial and national importance.

Save Langebaan Lagoon urgently calls on businesses and citizens to support their campaign through donating funds, signing the online petition and supporting their fundraising events to ensure that Langebaan Lagoon remains free from the threat of commercial fish farming.

As we commence Heritage Month, we have the opportunity to mobilize support to defend and protect a special part of our natural heritage. The Langebaan Lagoon is an area of unique natural beauty, for respite and recreation. It deserves to be protected as a destination of choice for many local, national and international visitors for generations to come. Join the campaign today.

Contact Details:
For more info on the legal aspects contact:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Clifford Wright – Chairperson: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Also: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.savelangebaanlagoon.co.za

Donations: ABSA Bank

Account Name: Save Langebaan Lagoon
Account No: 4094 783363 Branch Code: 632005
Ref.: Name / Organisation or donate via:
www.backabuddy.co.za/don…/champion/save-langebaan-lagoon2018

https://web.facebook.com/savelangebaanlagoon/posts/640482739693777?_

https://sbwqft.org.za/state-of-the-bay-2018-technical-repo…/

Also read: What you should know about aquaculture: 

https://www.biznews.com/africa/2014/05/14/9-things-everyone-know-aquaculture

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