Marine and coastal monitoring during lockdown

“Deserted Southern Cape beaches stretch for miles with only cormorants, Black Oyster Catchers and seagulls going about their business in glorious sunshine, without a trace of even a human footprint to be seen. This is a sight extremely unlikely ever to be repeated,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“Continued marine and coastal monitoring by the Garden Route District Municipality’s Disaster Management team, Knysna Municipality Disaster Management, SCLI, SANParks and CapeNature, as well as the presently ongoing environmental programmes, such as the Sea Turtle Rescue, other conservation and protection programmes and the SCLI Cape Floristic River Corridor Revival Programme provides interesting insights during abnormal conditions.”

“In as much as international reports in the media reflect an extremely high successful sea turtle breeding season along the coast of India, as well as an abundance of returning sealife to crystal clear waters in the Venetian waterways and channels off the Italian coast, we are unlikely to witness dramatic changes to nature in the Southern Cape in such a short time-span”.

“In as much as nature is resilient, and ecosystems that are on the brink of collapse, supporting species such as the critically endangered sea turtle and the ever-dwindling South African fish stocks can recover dramatically fast if left unhindered, but much more time is required for any such recovery than what the national lockdown will allow for.”

“What the lockdown does allow, is time to reflect on the way we manage our collapsing natural infrastructure and resources, and present us with a one-time opportunity to make structural and far-reaching changes which will allow humankind and nature a last-ditch opportunity to survive the coming onslaught of climate change.”

“Although much criticized at the time, government-enforced legislation banning driving on Southern Cape beaches caused outrage. Enforcing strict fishing quotas and prohibiting fishing in newly established marine protected areas also enraged the angling community. However, the results were magnificent, and the stricter measures were eventually accepted as a new normal.”

“Perhaps COVID-19 opened up a window of opportunity all thought unthinkable just three weeks ago. Conservation bodies in the Southern Cape must take time to do an in-depth review of conservation practices in the region to the long-term benefit of a very fast-growing population putting ever more and relentless pressure on the protection of our environment,” concludes Meiring. 

Photo: Wilderness Beach – A deserted Garden Route Beach – courtesy of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations. “The current situation offers authorities a blank canvas to radically rethink the way we manage natural resources and implement drastic measures and interventions to allow critically threatened marine resources and coastal ecosystems a last-ditch opportunity to return from the brink of total collapse,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

** The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) is a public platform and think tank for landowners and land managers with an interest in invasive alien plant management, water stewardship and land management. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund (TMF), a subsidiary of WWF SA.


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