The perilous seas around Cape Point – False Bay

Some visual images pack a visceral punch.  In June over a period of just one fortnight, three whale entanglements in octopus trap lines occurred here in False Bay.   Two Bryde whales died; a third, a juvenile humpback survived after being cut free.  Photographs showed horrific injuries where ropes cut deeply into flesh and death by drowning, caused bloating.  That’s not the worst of it, other whales prior to this had also died through entanglement.  A tally of 8 apparently in recent years, but no one knows for sure.   Activists sparked outrage over social media and Allison Thomson organised a petition addressed to our Minister of Environmental Affairs, Fisheries and Forestry to stop the octopus fishing.  A temporary suspension was called while further assessment could be undertaken in this an “experimental” fishery.  Without any scientific data to back up the sustainable viability of the octopus population an “exploratory” license was initially issued for a five year period for a catch of up to 50 tonnes per year.  The experiment was to have been monitored by the Department, but apparently has now been running for seventeen years without any scientific oversight.  How can the trophic impact to the food web be accurately assessed when one specie is targeted?  Do the predators which hunt octopus – eg. seals, or otters or sharks prey instead on penguins?  Have the shark species move off somewhere else?  No one knows for sure what the knock on effect is on other marine species.

Through the years we have observed the octopus fishing boats laying out the gear  – multiple traps fixed over long lines set with bouys and anchors.  There are at least twenty-two traps over a kilometer of line attached each end to a bouy.  The traps lie on the ocean bed and the submerged lines are supposed to be heavy enough to sink except for section up to the bouys.    When the catch is retrieved all the traps need to be pulled up on deck to be emptied and then returned to the water and the gear reset along the edge of the kelp forests, and in some areas quite close to marine reserves.

Meanwhile apparently all the gear has been removed after the license was suspended and the officials debate the ethics of killing whale species over the economic validity of the industry.

Humpbacked whale carcass washed onto the rocky coast near Buffels Bay, Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

14 thoughts on “The perilous seas around Cape Point – False Bay

    1. The fishing industry has a lot to answer for the consequences of careless practice. How do we start? I take photos of illegal boat activities and pass on the pictures but I doubt anything is ever followed up.

  1. This is so shocking. We humans need to consider where we get our food from, and what we need. The amount wasted from supermarkets each day must be staggering. Do we really need asparagus from Peru? Strawberries at Christmas? All the choices? We have to start making some major changes if our planet is to survive, but as usual greed and profit get in the way of actually doing anything about the problems we face. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Liz.

    1. We can make consumers aware of supporting “Local”, but is it too little too late? The calls for change are growing louder; the scary part is that the effects of the damage are accelerating. Need dire consequences to effect change!

    1. Isn’t it disturbing! Yes, an outright ban would be the best outcome. After the public outcry, all eyes are on fisheries – as well as high lighting the lack of scientific oversight in extending ‘experimental’ fishing licenses. It’s heartening that public pressure can change policy.

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