South African fish farmers raise concern over offshore oil and gas exploration

SOUTH AFRICA – South African fish farmers along the west coast have raised concerns about the impact of oil and gas exploration in the deepwater Orange Basin being carried out by TotalEnergies.

TotalEnergies intends to drill up to ten exploration wells along the west coast as well as conduct sonar surveys and vertical seismic profiling among other thorough operations.

These activities will stretch out from 188 kilometres to 340 kilometers from the coast according to GroundUp a South African newspaper.

The fish farmers are worried about how the explorations would affect their livelihoods saying that they rely heavily on fishing and the doringbaai abalone farm at the harbour.

“Oil and gas, and fishing cannot co-exist,” said Fabian Mohammed, a fish farmer in Doringbaai. “Either you go into the ocean to catch fish or you go for oil and gas. But you cannot do both”

Several public consultations were held about the matter and most concerns raised about the activities constituted whether there will be any fish left in the years to come and what that would mean for future generations.

According to South Africa Pelagic Fishing Industry Association (SAPFIA) the sonic waves from exploration activities damage fish, destroy marine wildlife and promote the migration of marine species from the affected areas. Inevitable accidental oil spills will also put marine life in danger.

Overexploitation hurts Sea cucumber population in Seychelles

Meanwhile in Seychelles a recently published 2021/2022 survey by the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) has revealed that some sea cucumber species populations are heavily depleted in comparison to their numbers in a survey from 2004.

The SFA revisited about 200 sites from the original 2004 survey, aiming to estimate the trends in population size and density.

The authority reported that although some sea cucumber species appear to be heavily resilient to heavy fishing pressure, other species are showing very clear signs of over-exploitation.

According to data collected on white teat fish species, their population depleted by approximately 10% since the last survey.

The prickly redfish species reported a 52% increase since the previous survey while the flower teat fish also showed signs of overexploitation when a reduction of stock was observed.

The authority suggests immediate cessation of fishing of the species to allow for recuperation while monitoring is done to detect any recovery.

The SFA, therefore, reduced the fishing quota by 5% (from 11,250 pieces per vessel to 9,619) in the new season which started on October 15th and end on June 14th 2023.

Timothy Skewes, a consultant who led the recent survey advised the Seychelles sea cucumber fishery to implement sustainable fishing practices to ensure the long-term survival of the fishery.

There are currently 25 licenses to harvest and 4 licenses to process sea cucumber in Seychelles which are mostly exported.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the annual export of dried sea cucumber from 2019-2021 was 41.52 tonnes which was valued at US$4.7 million.

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