Address by Ms Rejoice Mabudafhasi, MP, Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, on the occasion of a National Marine Week, Port Elizabeth
11 Oct 2012
Executive Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality: Cllr Zanoxolo Wayile
Learners and Educators from surrounding schools
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure for me to join you here today at Swartkops as we celebrate the 2012 National Marine Week under the theme: “Southern Oceans...it is the small things that count.” While the focus is on the Southern Ocean, the theme applies to the estuary also. It is the small things that count. It is the small organisms that make the estuary and the marine life in it flourish.
The National Marine Week campaign happens annually in October, a month which for us in South Africa represents the middle of spring – a time that signifies the emergence of new life around us. The timing of the National Marine Week clean-up campaign signifies the possibility of ‘new beginnings’ for us as people in terms of how we interact with the coastal environment. This campaign provides us with an opportunity to take stock of how we are affecting the coastal environment, especially in terms of marine pollution. We have an opportunity today to demonstrate and to make the pledge that we shall be better custodians of the coast. It is certainly not just a day to clean up litter, but a day for learning and reflection.
It is no coincidence that the department has selected the Swartkop’s Estuary as the venue for this National Marine Week event. The Swartkops estuary is the heart of this community, providing a source of beauty and prosperity to so many. The Swartkops estuary is surrounded by various communities that are entitled to benefit from the different services that the estuary provides and it attracts tourists. Apart from its beauty, the estuary is well known for angling, boating and the collection of bait. It is also important for cultural purposes, that is, baptism site for church congregations and used by traditional healers to perform cleansing ceremonies and harvesting for medicinal plants.
The Swartkops estuary is one of the top ranked estuaries in terms of its importance and economic value. Tourism alone is estimated to generate R50 million per year, subsistence use accounts for R 808 953 and its value as a nursery area for fish and invertebrates is equivalent to R38.2 million. It provides a suitable environment for many different plants species and animal species including about 4 000 birds in summer. It is for this reason that the Swartkops estuary is ranked as the 11th most important estuary out of the 300 estuaries in South Africa in terms of its Biodiversity.
Inevitably, the increase in densities and associated human activities in the vicinity of Swartkops estuary, poses a threat to the sustainable development and conservation of the area. The Swartkops estuary, like many of South Africa’s estuaries has its own challenges. Despite its importance and economic contribution to the communities, there are concerns that affect the integrity of the estuary.
The main issues that must be addressed to improve the current status of the estuary include the seriously deteriorating water quality and better management of the subsistence bait fishery and the associated impacts on the ecosystem as a whole. Pollution in the form of sewerage, disposal of litter, and industrial effluent also threatens human health and has a detrimental effect on plants and animals which include the prawns, pencil bait and blood worms that are important for the livelihoods of the local people. It is therefore, no coincidence that a clean-up campaign is conducted in this estuary today in celebration of our Marine Week.
The department selected the Swartkops estuary as one of the first pilot sites in 2007 to test the process of developing management plans and to ensure the abovementioned issues are addressed. The process is holistic and includes all the relevant stakeholders in managing the estuary.
The development of Estuary Management Plans (EMPs) became mandatory during the development of the Integrated Coastal Management Act through the establishment of National Estuarine Management Protocol. Estuaries and their management thereof have not been adequately addressed by past marine, freshwater and biodiversity conservation Acts due to the fact that they did not fit the ambit of any one government department. Based on the management interventions in the Swartkops management plan, the estuary has been strongly identified as one of the priority estuaries for rehabilitation.
This will include cooperation from relevant stakeholder for water quality issues, clearing of alien vegetation and restoration of areas that have undergone inappropriate practices such as bank stabilisation. The rehabilitation projects will create temporary employment opportunities to the locals.
Our estuaries are special places. They are places where the precious freshwaters of our land meet the waters of our vast oceans. Our estuaries are threatened by pollution and poor development. The very pollution that ends up into our estuaries will eventually end up in the sea around us. In so doing it will threaten the benefits we get from our oceans, such as food, oxygen and recreation. I want to appeal to everyone, that we use this day to think carefully about how closely we are really connected to the ocean and how we affect it. The oceans around us are our national heritage and it should be a source of national pride.
Ladies and gentlemen,
While about 70 % of earth’s surface is covered by the ocean, our knowledge of what goes on in the oceans around us is still relatively limited. There are mysterious and peculiar creatures and habitats at the oceans depths that must still be discovered and understood. By understanding how these creatures live we can progress in many areas of technology and science. Our oceans play a major role in regulating our climate on land. The more we can understand the intricacies of how our climate is influenced by the oceans around us, the better we will be able to protect ourselves, our livelihoods and our possessions, from extreme weather and climatic change.
In closing, I would like to thank the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, and all those who have made a contribution, for the support you are lending to this important event. Last but not least, I would like to extend my appreciation to the staff of the department for their tireless efforts in making this event a reality.
I thank you.
For media queries, contact:
Cell: 082 611 8197
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
11 Oct 2012
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