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Illegal fishing rapes the waters of Africa while Mozambique's tourism claims conflict with reality
Pete Bethune, controversal environmentalist best known for breaking the global circumnavigation speed record for a powerboat using 100% biofuel, and his widely reported exploits against the Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sancutuary, was in Cape Town, South Africa this weekend to launch the latest chapter of his new marine conservation organisation, Earthrace Conservation.
Prior to the launch, Bethune spent three weeks traveling around the African coast to witness for himself some of the destructive practices that are damaging the marine environment and endangering the livelihoods of local people.
Speaking from the launch this weekend at The Brass Bell in Kalk Bay, which appropriately was itself a major whaling post almost 200 years ago, Bethune said, “What I have witnessed makes me more determined than ever to bring global attention to these issues, to work with local and international organisations however we can, and to help make positive change happen here.”
Illegal fishing raping Africa’s oceans
One of the most damaging practices carried out with impunity in Africa is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing). It is endemic within African waters. Around 2.6 billion people around the world rely on the oceans for food or income. Poachers, especially those using longlines and trawlers, are decimating the oceans of fish stocks, depriving local people and businesses of legitimate opportunities to make a living and feed families.
The effects are not limited to just the impact on fish stocks however. Through by-catch and discarding unwanted catch, millions of other marine fish and mammals, including many endangered and vulnerable species, are being killed. In addition, because these are illegal activities, African countries lose out on revenue from taxes and levies, to the detriment of the countries as a whole.
Bethune says, “I stood on a beach in Mozambique and watched the poachers just off shore. The sheer numbers of illegal longliners and trawlers raping the waters of fish is astounding. The lack of resources available to stop them is frightening – Mozambique has just one vessel to patrol 3000km of coastline. The poachers continue to take millions of tonnes of fish that does not belong to them with no fear of reprisals. They laugh in the face of the law.”
Tourism claims conflict with reality in Mozambique
Whilst in Africa, Pete also witnessed a disturbing dichotomy between the Mozambique promoted to tourists world-wide as ‘the Manta Ray and Whale Shark capital of the world’, and the legal hunting of both species by local people and increasingly, by organised gangs who sell their catch – shark fins, meat and other by products – to an increasingly greedy Chinese market.
Bethune is emphatic about what needs to be done. “Tourism claims are conflicting with reality in Mozambique. The Government must implement an immediate ban on all whale shark and manta ray hunting and honour its obligation to protect these endangered species. How it can promote itself as the ‘Manta Ray and Whale Shark Capital’ when turning a blind eye to the potential permanent loss of both these species beggars belief. Changing the law costs nothing, but losing tourist revenue will hit them hard.”
Don’t forget the fish!
Poaching of endangered wildlife on land gets good representation in the global press through the work of the many international conservation organisations and charities, who often get celebrity support.
Derek Swanepoel, Operations Director for Earthrace Conservation Africa says, “There are widespread laws in Africa governing illegal killing and trade of endangered animals and animal products. Admittedly, enforcement of these laws is difficult due to lack of funding and the huge areas involved. However, it is way ahead of the support given for legislation and enforcement of the law against those who are plundering the oceans.
“The issue of protection for less ‘cuddly’ marine animals like fish, and the rights of ordinary people to earn a living through legitimate and sustainable fishing, is something that Earthrace Conservation is now determined to help improve through the missions and campaigns we will carry out here in tandem with other local conservation and activist groups. Using a combination of direct action, lobbying and education, we plan to directly influence those who are carrying out or condoning illegal, inhumane or destructive behaviours that are affect the oceans and marine life of Africa.”
Contact ECO South Africa: Derrick Swanepoel, email@example.com; PO Box 651 Underberg 3257
www.facebook.com/earthracecapetown and www.facebook.com/earthracejohannesburg and www.facebook.com/earthracedurban
For further media information:
Beverley Bailey, +44 7711 482 572; skype: bevbailey69; firstname.lastname@example.org
Earthrace Conservation Africa
Expected to be one of the most active and effective teams working within the organisation, Earthrace Conservation in Africa joins other teams that are launching across the world as far afield as Gothenburg, Sweden; London, UK; Miami and Los Angeles in the US; and of course, in Pete’s home country of New Zealand. To date, there are three teams in South Africa - in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.