Good News for Local Whales


Tue, 2 July 2019

Good to know that DEFF has heeded calls after the City of Cape Town joined voices calling for a halt to octopus fishing after the death of another whale, a young Humpback, writes Spike.

National Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Barbara Creecy, recently announced a moratorium on the Exploratory Octopus Permit, which was awarded more than 17 years ago. This comes after a call to her office by the City of Cape Town to stop the fishery. That in turn followed a petition by thousands of South Africans to stop the fishery.

A dead juvenile humpback was found trapped in ropes from octopus traps off Millers Point in False Bay last Wednesday evening. It was towed to shore early last Thursday and taken to a landfill site. Activists and members of the public have already petitioned Minister Creecy after a Bryde’s whale died on Monday June 10. Up until writing, the death of the humpback has sparked renewed public outcry over social and other media, resulting in 27,100 people signing the petition to end the fishery, and counting. See the petition on HERE.

The original petition resulted in the issue being raised in Parliament two weeks ago, and the City joined calls to stop the fishery until further research could be done.Humpback-Dies-Photos-Sea-Change-Project2019-002

LANDFILL BOUND: Council workers prepare to hitch the whale at the slipway. Photo Sea Change

An Experimental Octopus Permit from the former Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was awarded to commercial fisherman Garry Nel more than 17 years ago. According to the statement by the City, it was not consulted. "In 2017, at a working group meeting following the drowning of a Bryde’s whale, the City requested the then DAFF to set limits as part of the conditions of the permit. This request was ignored," the statement said.

A keystone species in the marine ecology of the Cape Peninsula.Natural history film-maker and conservationist, Craig Foster, is vehemently against the fishery after spending eight years researching the Great African Kelp Forest of False Bay. His film about his relationship with an octopus has sparked international interest. He says the octopus is the “world’s most intelligent invertebrate” and a keystone species in the marine ecology of the Cape Peninsula.

The statement by the city said: "City officials from the Environmental Management Department’s Coastal Management Branch were alerted late yesterday evening that a young humpback whale carcass was floating about 500m off Sunny Cove, in False Bay. The team launched at first light this morning, 27 June to retrieve the carcass before it stranded on one of the city’s beaches. The officials were able to determine that the humpback was entangled in an octopus fishery line and had drowned."Humpback-Dies-Photos-Sea-Change-Project2019-006

PREMATURE DEATH: The humpback was a juvenile with a whole life ahead of it. Photo Sea Change

The press release stated that the carcass was cut free and towed to the Miller’s Point slipway for removal to a landfill site by the City’s Solid Waste Department, as determined by City protocol. Interestingly, the octopus fishing boat assisted with the towing of the carcass.

The octopus fishing boat assisted with the towing of the carcass"This is the third entanglement and second fatality of whales as a result of the octopus fishery in the last two weeks. All of these entanglements have occurred within the designated Marine Protected Area surrounding our shores. We are aware that livelihoods and jobs depend on the octopus fishing industry, however, we have to insist on sustainable practices. We cannot allow a situation where whales continue to die, because of these nets," said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt.

"We argue that the National Department should, after nearly two decades, be able to fully comprehend the impact and risks associated with the exploratory fishing. Clearly, there is an urgent need to design fishing gear that would not lead to the drowning of whales."Humpback-Dies-Photos-Sea-Change-Project2019-010

TIED DOWN: An octopus fishery rope cuts into the young whale's flesh. Photo Sea Change

"I was told by officials that the whales swim into the long ropes, and that they get a fright when this happens. They then roll over and get entangled, and eventually drown because the fishing gear is too heavy for them to reach the surface. Thus, we want to see the fishery suspended until the method of fishing is changed to a sustainable practice that will prevent bycatch."

"I am very worried about the impact this is having on our marine life and ecosystem, and the ethics of the octopus fishing practice in general.""I am very worried about the impact this is having on our marine life and ecosystem, and the ethics of the octopus fishing practice in general. I thus request the new Minister Barbara Creecy to place a moratorium on this permit and that all fishing gear be removed from False Bay until such time as the fishing gear and equipment are redesigned, tested, and proven not to pose a threat to our marine life," said Alderman Nieuwoudt. The City is also requesting Minister Creecy to consider providing the existing octopus fishing permit holder an alternative fishing option to ensure that those employed by the fishery will still be able to earn a living. The removal of whale carcasses places a huge financial burden on the City’s coffers.

"We are now considering invoicing the fishing company or the National Government for the removal cost and disposal. The cost to remove and dispose of one whale carcass amounts to between R50,000 and R150,000, depending on the weather conditions and the location of the carcass. We cannot expect ratepayers to keep on subsidising the bycatch of whales," said Alderman Nieuwoudt.

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