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.

Into the future

Into the future

What does the future hold for us?   Should we be feeling optimistic, or rather daunted?

A quick peek at the latest news from Davos and the World Economic Forum’s spotlight on The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an eye opener!

“Emerging technologies such as 3D printing and genetic engineering offer a lot of promise, but can also be double-edged swords. They can help make our lives easier, safer and healthier, but there is also potential to build weapons or dangerously modify organisms.

This post is in response to the weekly WPC: Optimistic

It’s International Biodiversity Day!

This is a day to celebrate: that biodiversity is recognised across the globe, right?  The theme this year is linked to Sustainable Development.  The focus is on efforts to integrate biodiversity targets into Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).  All the buzz words and acronyms but how does it translate into actions? The goals were part of the outcome document from the Rio+20 Summit and are expected to become part of the United Nations (UN) overarching development agenda beyond 2015. There are currently 17 objectives, and the first is to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’, with other goals focusing on resilient infrastructure, gender empowerment and sustainable use of natural resources.

“Biodiversity and ecosystems should be integrated and into the UN post 2015 sustainable development agenda,” says Susan Brown, Director of Global and Regional Policy at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Andrew Deutz, Director of International Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy explains further : ” The focus of Goal 15, for example, encompasses sustainable management of ecosystems and halting and reversing land degradation and biodiversity loss. There are indicators within the SDG on food security that mention sustainable agriculture,” says Deutz. “Another Goal that deals with water discusses restoring freshwater ecosystems and managing water resources with integrated approaches.”

Deutz says one of the most important notions to come out of the SDG panel was that the environment is not a stand-alone pillar. “Environment and natural resource management need to be integrated across the full spectrum of other goals,” he says. So success looks like achievements that conserve the environment while also ensuring food security. Are these goals really achievable? In March this year during a visit to London I was lucky to get to the Syngenta Photography Exhibition held at Somerset House.  The theme explores global challenges and was titled:  “Scarcity Waste”  and was represented under four themes: “Planet under Pressure”, “Our Footprint”, “Food Waste”, and “Shaping our Future”. A picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes, and how relevant it is in this context.   The photographers captured seeringly desolate scenes,  scenes that chill the heart.  On the one hand the plight of the desparately poor and on the other the extravagant waste of the first world populations.  As more than 800 million people got to bed hungry worldwide, others throw away over half of the food they buy.  A third of the world’s food prodution is lost or wasted along the supply chain.  In a world of limited resources, scarcity and waste have become fundamental social, political and environmental issues of our time.  Something needs to change! Text and photographs below are those displayed at the Syngenta Photography Exhibition under the theme:

“Planet under Pressure”

Our demands on nature are increasing: we are eating into our natural capital, making it more difficult to sustain the needs of the future. We have become the dominant force that is both shaping and altering the planet as a whole. Our impact is no longer local; it’s global. The effect of a growing human population will multiply the pressure we place on natural resources.  Our challenge is to ensure that there is enough land, food and water for future generations.” Further reading on SBD’s

“The economic and social needs of human populations will
continue to rely on wild species, which implies that these will
have to be used in a sustainable way, avoiding any threats of
extinction. Solutions involve much more than looking at all
living things as an economic resource, they are about changing
legal and institutional frameworks as well as individual habits,
particularly in industrialized nations, if species are to be saved.
The CBD* has not reached this level of action to drive changes
in economic systems that currently allow species to be over-
exploited and placed on the verge of extinction”

* Convention on Biological Diversity

Earth Day

“It’s our turn to lead” – the theme for this year’s Earth Day calls on all citizens around the globe to unite and show support for the protection of our beautiful and green environment.

South Africans have been challenged by the Institute of Waste Management to reduce consumption at home.  The president, Dr Suzan Oelofse sets out five easy steps at ways in reducing one’s needs and to live more frugally. Donating surplus clothing to managing food menus and careful catering are some of the ways in which we could streamline our needs. The link to the article is here and the ideas are practical and achievable.

I’ve added to the list and would love to hear of further suggestions ….

My faithful duo to cut down on electricity –

Reduce the need to boil the kettle by storing the boiled water.
Reduce the need to boil the kettle by storing the boiled water in a hotpot.

Ditch the plastic water bottles, instead use glass and invest in a filter system to purify tap water.

Spiget for filetered tap water and glass bottle.
Spiget for filtered tap water and glass bottle.

Throw out the cling wrap and plastic bags – invest in containers and reusable cloth bags –,

Cotton bags lined with durable waterproof material.
Cotton bags lined with durable waterproof material – good for packed sandwiches / lunch.
Store bread in bags, wrap cheese in cheesecloth in the fridge.

Grow window box herbs and greens, lettuce –

Save on greens and herbs by growing your own.
Save on greens and herbs by growing your own.

Get creative by using leftover pieces of material / yarn –  join a handicraft group and get knitting / sewing.  With winter coming the knitting needles will soon be out again ….

One of my mitred square blankets using odd ends of yarn.
A handknitted mitred-square blanket using odd ends of yarn.