Yoh, not a good way to start a Monday finding out the ou's plan to plonk a fish farm just 2k's off Pipe. Must admit got my blood pressure properly up! Our beach, ocean and waves might not be world class, but darn, they're home....and we don't want peeps messing with 'em.
Thanks to all those that took the time to submit their objections. Let's hope they don't fall on deaf ears.
The consultant peeps don't feel that I accurately represented the facts by stating that 700ha was allocated to the proposed site off Pipe (known as Algoa 1). But it says as much on pg iii of their report. It is noted that they do go on to mention that the area will be divided into a north and south section, and it's anticipated that the project will start small just in one section. The worry is that if the proposal gets passed - what's to stop the developer who gets the contract from using the full area in the end?
In theory, should any of the identified thresholds detailed by specialists and recommended in terms of local and international best practice guidelines be exceeded (i.e. dispersion of wastes, entanglement of dolphins/whales, attraction of seals/sharks, unacceptable levels of user conflict) the project will be prevented from expanding and/or decommissioned altogether. The question is who monitors this though? Will we get unbiased results if it's the owners of the fish farm that commission the studies? Cos it's not really in their interests to report anything negative on their operations.
Plenty of specialist studies have been done regarding the proposal - so am super keen to check them out to get a better understanding of what's been done to date. Be especially keen to see the monitoring studies of sea conditions, cos they gonna have to have some super strong cables to keep those cages attached in big swells. Not sure what the sea condition/wind speed criteria are for fish farms, but that spot definitely isn't just lil ripples.
Hopefully the consultants will be open to a chat so I can find out more details about the whole project, and report back on what the deal is. Cos right now I'm still thinking this is a really kak idea.
I asked a local surfer Gavin Rishworth for his thoughts. Gav has a BSc (Zoology) and is busy with his Masters.
Aquaculture encroaching on the Bay
Not in my backyard, or NIMBY as it is known in environmental impact circles, is the term used to describe residents who are angry about a proposed development on their turf. This “syndrome” is the cause of animosity in many petitions as residents take up arms against the authorities in an attempt to deter development. We all want to defend and fight for our territory.
The way to back-up the emotion of NIMBY syndrome is with research, facts and alternatives. One has to look at the prospective project from all perspectives and decide whether, despite the possible misgivings of it being in our backyard, it is truly justifiable. That is the only real way to approach these sorts of things: with information.
The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is looking at developing a patch of ocean off our coast into a Marine Aquaculture Development Zone targeted for sea-based fin-fish aquaculture, particularly kob and yellowtail. This area lies approximately two kilometres off-shore of the popular swimming and surfing beaches of Port Elizabeth. Immediately warning bells should be ringing as one begins to associate swimmers with fish and food – the ocean has many toothy characters which are attracted to fishy smells and could unfortunately mistake an unwary ocean-goer for a morsel.
Why is DAFF wanting to go ahead with this? Well, the oceans are under severe pressure from overfishing and one of the realistic ways in which this can be mitigated is through aquaculture. The 2012 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s (FAO) report of the State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture (http://www.fao.org/fishery/sofia/en) highlights the ability of aquaculture to compensate for declining natural fish stocks in the face of our growing population (see figure). So, aquaculture in itself is definitely not a bad thing. If done correctly it can supplement our growing demands on the ocean’s resources significantly.
The negative side of aquaculture is its environmental impacts. Aquaculture industries are notorious as a vector for introducing invasive pests and diseases along our coasts. Furthermore, the food and/or fertiliser required to sustain an aquaculture development introduces unnatural levels of nutrients into the surrounding environment (known as eutrophication) and this can upset and pollute the ecosystem’s balance if unmitigated.
Specific to our scenario in Algoa Bay is the fact that this proposed project is looking to rear large fin-fish. Both suggested species are top predators in their natural environment and this means that the protein required to grow them will be high. Such a scenario will likely be analogous to chumming, unless properly mitigated, and one can imagine the curious sharky investigators this development will attract. The two kilometres separating it from the beach and surf spots may, unfortunately, not be enough to maintain PE’s track record of shark-attack avoidance. This is besides the fact that an area roughly the size of 700 rugby fields will be quite an eye-sore and that the increased nutrient-load may alter the balance of the underwater ecosystem.
Furthermore, the proposed site in the bay is not impervious to the prevailing swell and a reflection back to the stormy seas of September 2008 will convince any detractors. In saying this, tongue-in-cheek, any fish farm established in this area is most likely not going to be a problem for very long when Mother Nature decides to unleash her power. For developers to attempt to beat the ocean they’ll need weights and heavy netting/cages to hold the fish. This is most likely going to dilute the already meagre prevailing swell reaching PE’s surf spots and will provide a negative barrier or even a trap to some of our local whales and dolphins.
As an alternative, prospectors need only look just north of the PE harbour for a more suitable spot. This area has already been used for fish farming, is away from any well-used beaches, is easier to access as it is closer to the harbour mouth, and is far more sheltered from the prevailing south-westerly swells. As residents, surfers and patriots of our beautiful bay, in this case, we have a right to take the NIMBY approach as this development is quite clearly an ill-conceived venture. Aquaculture is mostly a good thing, and in our country is a novel channel for job creation, but if it goes ahead in a poorly planned manner such as this the costs will no doubt catch up to the envisioned benefits.