SANParks has confirmed none of their marine scientists wrote the ‘open letter to the Minister’ published in the Group Herald publications (21 January 2016). In the letter, the writer claims to be a scientist based in the Garden Route. The motive of the letter is also questionable as a SANParks scientist would know internal procedures to voice such a matter. The writer requests the Minister to withdraw draft regulations which are highly unlikely since the commenting period began 3 months ago and closes on the 01st of February 2016.
His statement that marine scientists were not consulted in blatantly untrue and unsubstantiated. In fact, on the 21st January 2016 DEA and SANParks were in Cape Town in a workshop where marine scientists were presented and freely giving comment and opinions to the process.
The writer’s reference to a study on the criteria of 87 MPAs is interesting for these reasons:
They should be a ‘no-take zone’
The proposal for Tsitsikamma allocates 20% of the coastline as a controlled take zone and 80% of the coastline as a non-take and 100% a no-take.
A total of 71 additional staff members were hired to strengthen enforcement in addition to experienced rangers
In the Garden Route, the Goukamma and Robberg MPAs both allow shore-based line fishing. The Robberg MPA in Plettenberg Bay allows line fishing from the shore, currently around its whole coastline. In addition, anglers can fish to the east and to the west of Robberg. Tsitsikamma residents, who are hardly an elite group, have requested similar reasonable access for decades so they are not being disadvantaged relative to persons residing between Natures Valley and Robberg to the west of Tsitsikamma or Eerste River to the east, where simple physical access also remains problematic.
All five of South Africa’s MPAs with a coastal boundary declared since 2003 (when we hosted the World Parks Congress which contributed to a new vision for MPAs) have allowed recreational line fishing from at least part of the coastline, in the knowledge that this access often catered for poorer portions of the community. (The two exceptions are Bird Island in the middle of Algoa Bay and the Prince Edward Island MPA in the middle of the Southern Ocean!).
Since the Minister has requested all comments to be submitted to MPARegs@environment.gov.za, the letter can only be escalated to the Minister’s media advisor. If the decision is to get the name of the writer via a court order, it will be made by the media advisor and not SANParks or DEA.
The matter of some members of the group opposing the process acting as ‘freelance journalists’ and then lobbying support against the process on social media and other platforms will be taken up with the Press Council & Ombudsman by SANParks supported by DEA.
‘We have had too many imposters during this process’ admits the Director for Oceans and Coast, Zolile Nqayi. ‘People are either freelance writers or posing as scientists. Yet all information can be accessed on www.dea.gov.za (gazette), or www.sanparks.org (news archives).’