Posted by . on June 05, 2004 at 02:27:24:
By Seshoane Masitha
Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk yesterday announced measures to protect marine areas in the country.
The four marine protected areas (MPA) are Aliwal Shoal in KwaZulu-Natal, Pondoland, the coastline between Port St Johns and Mtamvuna River, Bird Island in Algoa Bay and Table Mountain National Park.
Minister Van Schalkwyk announcement came ahead of World Environment Day celebrated today.
The new MPA's are modeled on the success of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, with strict zoning of both marine and coastal protected areas.
The move creates controlled zones, which allow for limited fishing, restricted zones for controlled development of tourism, while protecting fish and sanctuary zones, in which complete protection will be applied.
The minister said agreements had been reached with interest groups with regard to the portioning of use between fishing, scuba diving and spear fishing in Aliwal Shoal.
"The marine protected area will serve many functions, including the conservation of the unique reef fauna, control of user-conflict and the development of a world-renowned diving site. Aliwal Shaol can be added to other great tourist attractions of KwaZulu-Natal," said Mr Van Schalkwyk.
He also said the protection of the Pondoland would prevent exploitation of fishing in the area and boost eco-tourism.
He explained that the protection of the Bird Island Group, which include (Bird, Seal and Stag Island was the first step in the seaward extension of the Greater Addo Elephant National Park.
"While the reefs around the islands are important for abalone and linefish, Bird Island unfortunately has been the target of abalone poachers and the protection of the island is regarded as a priority," he said.
The expansion of Table Mountain National Park to include the sea around the Cape Peninsula is aimed at protecting rich marine life along the shores.
"These new MPAs will bring South Africa much closer to achieving targets set at the World Summit on Sustainable Development and World Parks Congress for the protection of coastal waters," he said.
The Environmental Affairs and Tourism Department has vowed to act swiftly against those who do not respect these new restrictions.
"We will enlarge our environmental patrol fleet, we have four boats at the moment. We will take delivery in October of the first of the four state of the art vessels, purchased at a cost of R500 million," minister Van Schalkwyk said.
The department will also expand the force of Fishing Control Officers this year.
The minister also announced his department had planned to open a new environmental court in Gauteng.
"It has always been my personal belief that we will not begin to turn around conservation and compliance until we upgrade and strengthen our environmental enforcement capacity, " he said.
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