Site for proposed fish farm removed

Bay residents opposing the fish farms at the first of its kind sea-based protest in Port Elizabeth recently.                                          Photo:HEILIE COMBRINcK
Bay residents opposing the fish farms at the first of its kind sea-based protest in Port Elizabeth recently. Photo:HEILIE COMBRINcK

BAY protesters are celebrating a significant victory after one of the sites for the proposed fish farm has recently been changed to bivalve farming.

The sea-based protest against the proposed fish farm for Algoa Bay saw more than 2 000 residents swim, paddle, snorkel, surf and walk along the beach front.

This followed the announcement of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) plan to bring commercial fish farming to the Bay through the use of sea cages in three locations.

According to Gary Koekemoer, chairperson of the Algoa Bay branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (WESSA), the protest-celebration had, in their view, done the work of getting DAFF to rethink the approach.

However, the alternative to fish farming at the site (Algoa 1) is now bivalve farming. This will be the same as Algoa 6, north of the PE harbour, where the current oyster farm lies.

Koekemoer said the new approach is of a lesser concern and perhaps the best compromise possible between ecosystem and economic interests.

“This is because there is not the same risk of sharks and the same effluent or chemical risk to local reefs and beaches as bivalves filter the water. However, I know the open-water community remain concerned about whether it will impact on their current swimming routes,” Koekemoer said.

Koekemoer believes that one of the reasons for the change is that no effective mitigation exists to address the perception of an increased shark attack risk.

He added, “In the absence of a proper socio-economic study, the loss of jobs to the tourism industry is a very real concern. The public response has been overwhelmingly negative towards fish cages as well.

“They (DAFF) have halved the site because of the earlier concern about the southern part of the site’s impact on squid fishing and carved out a section to allow continued access to a dive site.”

Ward 2 councillor, Renaldo Gouws, shared the news on social media and welcomed the removal of the fish farm. Gouws said, “The proposed fishing farm in Humewood/Summerstrand has officially been removed from the plan which means that it will not take place.”

However, DAFF is still in the process of applying (as originally intended) for fish farming at Algoa 7 which is 4km off St George’s Strand in Wells Estate and close to St Croix Island.

A petition is currently open suggesting the rehabilitation of the Swartkops estuary for job creation and food security instead of sea-based aquaculture developments.

Two public meetings have been planned for the public participation process.

The first meeting will be held today from 18:00 to 20:30 at the City Hall reception area in Vuyisile Mini Square, Govan Mbeki Avenue.

The second meeting will take place tomorrow from 18:00 to 20:30 at the Motherwell NU2 Community Hall in Chief Poto Street.

“We will continue to oppose fish farms at the northern site with regard to the impact on beach users and the African penguin colony at St Croix. We are consulting with community groups from those adjacent communities and will attend the two public meetings to call for the official consideration of restoring the Swartkops as a more viable alternative,” Koekemoer said.

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