The Department of Environmental Affairs has been ordered by the High Court to cease all recreational angling in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA), with immediate effect.
The DEA confirmed the court order in a statement, saying the South African National Parks (SANParks) and the Tsitsikamma Angling Forum (representatives of the Tsitsikamma fishing community) “have reached a settlement agreement” with the Friends of the Tsitsikamma Association, to stop the pilot recreational angling project in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA).
In 1964, the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park was the first in Africa to be proclaimed a Marine National Park. It is also one of the largest Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the world. Incorporating 80 km of rocky coastline, it protects an abundance of marine life – many of them endangered species.
The court order was passed by the High Court on Friday, 8 January 2016.
This comes after public outcry over the project, in which conservationists argued that 50 years of conservation would have been destroyed by the re-opening of Africa’s oldest marine protected area.
The project commenced on 15 December 2015, despite the controversy. The court order states that the Department of Environmental Affairs and all parties involved cease the pilot project for recreational angling in the area with immediate effect.
- The complete court order can be viewed here.
On December 15th last year, the Department of Environmental Affairs began a pilot project that opened up the park for fishing.
Conservation group, Friends of Tsitsikamma, opposed this and approached the courts, which halted the fishing.
SANParks and the Tsitsikamma Anglers Forum said in a statement they will inform the registered fishermen in the area of the settlement. The settlement, however, does not affect the published draft regulations for the re-zonation of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area.
The Department of Environmental Affairs, SANParks, the Koukamma Municipality and other stakeholders have held various meetings with the Tsitsikamma angling forum to discuss the rezoning of possible controlled areas within the MPA.
“This is done in order to provide benefits for society and the communities that are currently denied the minimal use of natural resources while ensuring that such benefits are protected for future generations”, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement.
Minister Edna Molewa’s regulations on the rezoning of Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area, which were announced in November 2015, can be viewed here.
‘Friends of Tsitsikamma’ say their main concern when instituting the court action, besides looking out for the sustainability of the area, was the fact that the public participation process was incomplete.
The group’s Judy Mann says, “The court action was prompted because the area was open to fishing on 15 December, before the public consultation process had a chance to be completed. The government gazette was published and was open for comment until 1 February and then the reserve was opened during that time period on 15th December. Therefore due process had not been followed and we felt that due process should be followed in a case like this.”
Before government’s 15 December decision, fishing was prohibited in the Tsitsikamma Park, with SANParks fining those who did not adhere to the law.
Mann says they would like to work with the department and SANParks on a way forward. “I think we absolutely would like to work together with DEA and SANParks and the fisherman to find a solution that will address everyone’s concerns. But, I think that everyone needs to have their say so that we can look at all sides of the story and come up with a solution that looks at the long term sustainability of those fish.”
The DEA, SANParks, the Koukamma municipality, and other stakeholders had held various meetings with the Tsitsikamma angling forum to discuss the zonation of possible controlled areas within the MPA.
This engagement was to reassess the basis of marine resource use in the Tsitsikamma MPA.