Report on the Managing Estuaries meeting hosted by Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) held on 28 May 2015

Sep 1, 2015

(Photo:  From left to right:  William Bode, Senior Conservation Officer: Ndlambe Municipality; Fanie Fouche, Deputy Director: Community Protection Services Ndlambe Municipality; Professor Janine Adams: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Dr Tony Ribbink, CEO: Sustainable Seas Trust; Professor Nadine Strydom: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University)

Report on the Managing Estuaries meeting hosted by Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) held on 28 May 2015

The South African Government has published a guide on the management of estuaries with clear indications of how a management plan should be developed. On the 28th of May 2015 Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) hosted a well-attended public information session on Estuary Management at the Kenton-on-Sea Town Hall, with input from the Deputy Director of Ndlambe Municipality’s Community Protection Services, Fanie Fouché and two Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) researchers, Prof Janine Adams and Associate Professor, Nadine Strydom.

In welcoming everyone SST CEO, Dr Tony Ribbink, announced the production of a public participation book about Bushman’s and Kariega estuary management care. The purpose of the book is to develop caring communities who, know, understand and promote the estuaries.

Dr Ribbink said his vision for the book was to see involvement from all people caring for the environment with information and photographs contributed by all sectors of the community. Dr Ribbink expressed his gratitude to the Bushmans Kariega Estuary Care Management Forum for funding the initial investigation for the book.

“Today’s meeting is a first step towards developing a publication about estuary care management that is accessible to all. In order to do so everyone must know and understand the value of their role, gather and share knowledge, including anecdotes from experienced people.

“The focus today is on technical knowledge, we are getting expert guidance on management which will help us set focussed goals but our achievement of the goals is absolutely dependent on working together. The aim of this meeting is to walk away better informed and to follow through by finding ways to work together, develop friendships and to share the knowledge gained among ourselves but also among communities not represented at this meeting.

Dr Ribbink emphasised that when we “improve the environment, we improve the economy, and we improve quality of life for all”.

The Deputy Director of Ndlambe Municipality’s Community Protection Services, Fanie Fouché, addressed the challenge of managing estuaries in the Ndlambe Municipality, with particular reference to the Kariega and Bushman’s estuaries.

“Ndlambe has four open estuaries and five closed ones. Ndlambe has been assessed as a category B municipality but does not have the tax base necessary to fund preparation of an Estuary Management plan on its own. Each of the nine estuaries needs their own Management plan and the Kowie has been selected as the first river for the development of a Management plan.

“Ndlambe is the only area on the South African coastline without a Coastal Management plan. A Service Provider has yet to be approved (cost approx. R200-R500,000 per plan). The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps for Ndlambe will extend up the estuaries and the coastal set-back line will address legal requirements and the public participation meetings must be held no later than 31st July,” Fouché said.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University professor, Janine Adams, a specialist researcher in the field of coastal ecosystems; their functioning, conservation, management and legislation, spoke about Estuary Management Plans (EMP). Prof Adams referred to a publication, National Estuary Management Protocol, which lays out all the agencies, protocol and standards and responsible authority for the development of EMPs together with the minimum requirements for an EMP and the procedure for the development of an EMP adding that there are 25 estuaries who have EMPs so far.

Prof Adams said there was enough information currently available for the Kariega and Bushman’s estuaries to enter the scoping phase in the preparation of an EMP and identified the phases which would be involved:

  • Objective setting.
  • Management objective with regard to measures such as bait collection
  • How to measure it.
  • Who is legally responsible
  • What is the cost

“The MEC will sign off the plan and the Provincial Coastal management committee will ensure implementation. The Protocol recognizes previous plans and advisory bodies and the Working for the Coast project provides a means of finding the necessary funding while the control of resources could be handled by : Rangers/Honorary Fisheries Officers,” Prof Adams said.

Nadine Strydom, an Associate Professor in Marine Biology at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University who specializes in coastal fishes and their larval stages, addressed the current state of our estuaries. Her particular research focus is on coastal fish nursery areas for which estuaries play a significant role. She has worked on many estuaries of South Africa, including a programme with SST at Keiskamma (Hamburg).

“There are different types of estuaries, both the Kariega and Bushman’s rivers rely on inflows of fresh water, and suffer from getting too little fresh water whereas the Fish River gets too much.

“The Bushman’s and Kariega estuaries are classified as B estuaries – few estuaries are classified as A (indicating no problems) – whereas most of the Natal estuaries are classified as F because of pollution. So whilst we are rightly concerned about the state of our rivers, they are not as bad as some,” she said.

Prof Strydom pointed out that recreational fishing is worth R1.2b annually to South Africa. Care of our estuaries is in our hands as indeed evidence gained from a survey done on the Sunday’s river reveals that most anglers are educated people, while subsistence anglers amounted to only 7% of the fishermen.

In highlighting the plight of the Dusky Kob, which may become extinct in our lifetime Prof Strydom emphasised the importance of estuarine care by all. Estuaries are excellent nursery areas for small fish and therefore need to be maintained in good condition. On the other adult fish are sometimes concentrated in estuaries and easily caught, leading to over exploitation. “Noncompliance of regulations has resulted in massive overfishing of many recreational species, like the Dusky Kob, Spotted Grunter, and White Steenbras,” she said.

In reply to questions as to what can be done to prevent the rivers from silting up and ultimately becoming blind, the two Professors both expressed the view, which echoes that of Dr Angus Patterson, (advisor to Estuary Care) that:

  • The prime cause of siltation has been the lack of vigorous fresh water inflow into the upper reaches of the rivers. This is the result of dams that have been built.
  • Within the restrictions posed by modern legislation, they believe that all that can be done is to wait for the 100 year flood and to let nature take its course. If the rivers are to close, then “so be it”.

Thank you to Maya Lloyd and Ted & Rem Gilfillan for these notes

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