Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area to be opened to fishing

20 December 2016 - 11:34 By Tmg Digital

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has approved the "rezonation" of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA) to allow limited fishing by members of local communities.

The new regulations grant permission for local communities to fish 20% of the coastline in three areas of the MPA.

In January 2016‚ a group of concerned citizens called the “Friends of Tsitsikamma” took legal action against the Department of Environmental Affairs‚ South African National Parks and the Tsitsikamma Angling Forum after the authorities opened four designated areas of the Tsitsikamma National Park to recreational shore fishing on 15 December 2015.

The activists criticised the department's “pilot project”‚ which it said gave an exclusive group of local fishermen access to some 20% of South Africa’s oldest Marine Protected Area (MPA)‚ without following due legal process. They won their case on 8 January 2016.

In the department's December statement‚ it said the rezonation followed an extensive public participation process‚ including extended engagements with local communities. This included consideration of the socio-economic circumstances of the area concerned as well as the biological resources of the area‚ it added.

The department said the objectives of the rezonation included marine biodiversity conservation‚ as well as community benefits such as reasonable access to the MPA and its biological resources.

"Whilst no-take MPAs are effective in achieving protection of marine resources and biodiversity‚ by definition they exclude reasonable access for the local communities to marine resources. Members of the local communities around the Tsitsikamma MPA have been excluded from fishing in the MPA to increasing degrees since 1975. The regulations seek to provide equitable access to marine resources for local communities‚" the department said.

A registration process will be initiated by the park.