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.

Haemanthus – Paintbrush lilies

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Like symbols of defiance, the gorgeous blooms of the paintbrush lilies are putting on a show in the midst of one of the worst droughts in years.  These geophytes cope  by storing moisture in their bulbs through times of restricted water ensuring the plants needs in producing the next generation through the cycle of flowers and fruit.

Sossusvlei

The immediate reaction on arriving at the foot of these immense orange dunes, is a sense of awe, and yet also of familiarity.  Dune 45, Big Daddy and Big Mama along with the desolation of  Deadvlei and the remnants of ancient dead acacias must be some of the most photographed desert scenes.

The scale and sinuous form are extraordinary, the geometry sensuous.  Here multi-directional wind lifts up the dune skirts forming star shapes with three or more arms extending from their peaks.  Eastwards a transverse dune belt lies sculpted by southerly winds in summer and firmly packed by the easterlies in winter into linear shapes. Further north the barchans / crescentic dunes lie perpendicular to the strong southerlies and are pushed like waves northwards towards the Kuiseb River where the encroaching sand is halted and stopped from spreading onto the gravel plains that spread northwards to the Swakop River.

This arid desert biome supports a surprising population of adapted fauna and flora.  An average of less than 50mm of rain falls in a year, but precipitation is supplemented by coastal fog – a crucial source of water for many plants and animals.