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Aquaculture project ‘slowly underway’

The contentious plan to expand the aquaculture project in Saldanha Bay is slowly underway according to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff).

The plan to develop aquaculture in the region as a means to help job creation and aid sustainable fishing by the department has been met with opposition since the beginning.

However, the department said this week that it is setting up the relevant structures required to manage the aquaculture development zone (ADZ).

Going ahead

“We have appointed an Environmental Control Officer to ensure compliance with the Environmental Authorisation and Environmental Management Programme,” Daff spokesperson Carol Moses explained.

“This officer reports directly to the department.”

The ADZ will consist of existing aquaculture, which includes shellfish and a fish farm.

Transnet, lease holder of the water space, advertised a tender for 255 ha of new water space last December. New and existing aquaculture projects are being considered.

“The proposals received are still under review and are going through relevant structures within Transnet National Ports Authority.

Not all the water space has been advertised, in line with the phased production approach specified in the Environmental Impact Assessment.”

Questions and concerns

Concerns have been raised by local environmental groups and locals, such as the Saldanha Bay Water Quality Trust, on whether the Bay will be able to handle the development.

The Save Langebaan Lagoon Action Group (SLL) launched an official appeal against the development last year. It was later dismissed by former Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.

The group is especially concerned about the effect that large-scale mussel, oyster and finfish farming within the waters bordering the Langebaan Lagoon will have. The lagoon is a Ramsar site (a site subject to an international convention that protects marine life).

The group is continuously raising funds to take the matter to the High Court to review the decision by the Minister of Environmental Affairs to reject the appeal against environmental authorisations granted for the ADZ.

Departmental management

The department says it will look to combat this with a phased approach, which will see aquaculture development in the bay happen slowly over time. The department claims that if any negative effects are noted from the sampling plan the development will be adjusted accordingly.

“The ADZ Committee – made up of all the relevant local and national authorities – was established on the 27 July 2018 and meets every two months to facilitate, oversee, manage and monitor aquaculture operations in the ADZ,” the department said in a statement.

“A detailed sampling plan was developed by an independent suitably qualified specialist and sent to all the stakeholders and relevant specialists for review.

The plan was also sent for peer review to an international expert who endorsed the plan. In line with it, a detailed baseline assessment is underway of all the new aquaculture areas,” the department says. ¦Stakeholders wishing to register for the Consultative Forum to ensure that they receive regular updates, to register or voice any concerns can contact the ECO at adzeco@ecosense.co.za.

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