28 December 2004

Freak waves hit SA as a result of tsunami

Mini tsunamis have hit the South African east and south coasts, where waves measuring up to two metres in height have been spotted, and experts say they are a direct offshoot of the tsunamis that have devastated southern Asia.

Cape Times health writer Jo-Anne Smetherham, who is on holiday in the Stilbaai area along the Cape south coast, experienced the phenomenon while paddling up the Goukou River.

"My husband Simon and I were paddling upstream after 6pm when suddenly Simon saw a big wave behind us.

This was unusual as we were paddling upstream and the wave had developed against the tide," she said.

Smetherham said the wave had been up to a metre high. "The second one was even bigger, about a metre and a half high. People started rushing out of the water. The wave was very strong, but we were not in any danger - it was quite exciting."

The tsunami later spread to Struisbaai. A barman at Nostra restaurant on the beach, Philip van Wyk, said the tsunami had reached the area at around 7.30pm.

"It was quite amazing. The water from the sea had pulled right back, leaving a sandy beach. About five minutes later, the water suddenly rose very high, about 1.5 metres. There were a lot of people on the beach, and they all ran for cover," he said.

Another wave occurred on the Breede River on Monday morning. Witsand resident Thane Garlick said a two-foot wave emerged from the river at 7am. "This thing also happened last night, which was much bigger. This morning's wave was very strong," said Garlick.

According to other media reports, the tsunamis had reached the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, at Richards Bay, earlier on Monday. They had moved down the coast, passing through East London, Port Elizabeth, and Plettenberg Bay.

A man had drowned, and two others had to be rescued at the main beach at Blue Horizon Bay near Port Elizabeth.

Professor Frank Shillington from the University of Cape Town's oceanography department said that the unusual waves along the coast of South Africa were because of the Asian tsunamis.

"It took longer than it should have (approximately 12 hours), but the delay could have been caused by the continental shelf that exists near coastlines."

"The shelf slows down the tsunami. However, it is unlikely to move on from South Africa. It has reached the end of its energy stream," said Shillington.
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Freak waves hit SA as a result of tsunami

27 December 2004

Exploring the power of deadly waves

Hong Kong - Tsunamis like those that wreaked havoc across Asia on Sunday, leaving thousands dead, are massive waves that are usually caused by earthquakes deep under the ocean floor and can travel vast distances.

Born of strong seismic shocks, tsunamis can reach huge heights and speeds, picking up strength as they cross the ocean - often with disastrous results - thousands of kilometres from their origin.

Despite their strength, they can be barely noticeable out at sea.

"If you are on a boat, you might not even feel a tsunami," said Wong Wing-tak, senior scientific officer at the Hong Kong Observatory.

"It becomes powerful only when it is near the shore and reaches shallow water, which then can push waves over 10 times higher than the sea water level."

While they can also be caused by landslides, volcanic eruptions, the most common cause is an undersea earthquake, especially in areas such as the Pacific where there is significant movement of the Earth's tectonic plates.

"Tidal waves are not a common phenomenon as usually only an earthquake that's over 7.7 on the Richter scale is capable of causing tidal waves," Wong said.

"Tsunamis travel outward in all directions from the epicentre of an earthquake and can savagely attack coastlines," he said. "It can easily roll people out to the sea, it causes flooding, devastates property damage."

"The speed of tsunami is linked to the depth of the water. It can travel at speeds of several hundred kilometres per hour," he said.

In 1960 a huge tidal wave travelling at 750km an hour smashed into Japan, having been caused by a series of quakes in Chile on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds were left dead.

In September 1992 a tsunami destroyed the homes of about 13 million people on the Nicaraguan coast.

Two months later villagers in Bali in Indonesia were swept by a series of giant waves that left thousands dead.

On July 17, 1998 two quakes that measured seven on the Richter scale caused tidal waves of 10m-high that ravaged a 30km stretch of the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. Seven villages were destroyed, and the official death toll was 2 123.

Alert to the destructive capacity of tsunamis, Pacific Rim countries co-ordinate and share their observations of the ocean. A tsunami alert centre in Hawaii collects information about possible tidal waves.

Smaller tidal waves can also be caused by weather phenomenon, notably extreme thermal changes which can lead to depressions that cause strong winds.
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Exploring the power of deadly waves

Ski-boat crew safe after foggy ordeal

A ski-boat and its three crew were found safe off Kommetjie, near Cape Point, on Saturday after going missing in dense fog.

According to an SABC radio report, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was alerted by a local yachtclub when the ski-boat failed to return at the scheduled time. It sent up a helicopter to look for the vessel.

An NSRI spokesperson told the SABC that, from the helicopter reports, it appeared that both the boat and its three crew were okay. He suspected they were caught in thick fog out at Kommetjie on Saturday and were unable to find their way back to land.

He emphasised, though, that this had yet to be confirmed when the rescue boat actually reached their position.
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Ski-boat crew safe after foggy ordeal

Whales stranded on island

Sydney - More than a dozen large sperm whales may have died in a beaching incident on Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, local wildlife rangers said on Monday.

A pod of 19 sperm whales became stranded in rough weather on Tasmania's west coast and poor conditions hampered rescue efforts, said district ranger Chris Arthur.

"We know that the majority of the whales are dead and that they are in the surf zone," Arthur said.

He said the whales ranged in size from seven to 14 metres in length and weighed up to 45 tonnes.

"These are not small animals, these are quite large animals," Arthur said on ABC radio.

Authorities learned of the stranded whales early on Monday but severe weather had hampered efforts to fly to the area to see if any of the animals could be saved.

"The weather is incredibly difficult," he said.

In November, 117 pilot whales and dolphins died after a mass stranding on Tasmania's east coast.

Scientists have long been puzzled about why the ocean mammals become beached in groups.

Theories range from diseases that upset internal navigation systems to herd behaviour in which large numbers of whales blindly follow a leader into trouble.

Others believe they may follow stocks of food such as crayfish too close to the shore.
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Whales stranded on island

Missing boat and crew found

Cape Town - A ski-boat and its three crew were found safe off Kommetjie, near Cape Point, on Saturday after going missing in dense fog.

According to an SABC radio report, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was alerted by a local yachtclub when the ski-boat failed to return at the scheduled time. It sent up a helicopter to look for the vessel.

An NSRI spokesperson told the SABC that, from the helicopter reports, it appeared the boat and its three crew were okay.

He suspected they were caught in thick fog out at Kommetjie on Saturday and were unable to find their way back to land.
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Missing boat and crew found

Tidal waves sweep tourists away

Bangkok - Huge tidal waves struck southern Thailand's popular resort island of Phuket on Sunday, sweeping at least four foreign tourists out to sea, sinking boats and forcing the evacuation of hotels, officials said on state radio.

"As of now there are four foreign tourists missing and we are conducting a search," deputy Phuket governor Pongpao Ketthong said.

Phuket's major beach town, Patong, was flooded and extensive damage had been reported from a series of two-metre-high waves that slammed the tropical island's west coast at about 08:30, a rescue worker said.

"Many tourists were swept into the sea" but exact numbers were not known, the rescue worker, Mongkol Ketsunthorn, said on the radio.

Christmas and new years are peak seasons in Phuket, a resort island that sees hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors each year.

"Tourists were also on the (nearby) beaches of Karon, Kata and Kamala when a giant wave suddenly hit and swept everything up into the sea," he added.

He said all shops, kiosks and hotels along Patong beach were damaged by the tsunami, which were the likely result of a massive earthquake that struck west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra early on Sunday, which the US Geological Survey said measured 8.5 on the Richter scale.

Several international hotels were completely evacuated on emergency police orders. Hotels on Patong were not answering their telephones.

"Police came to the hotel and ordered all guests to leave immediately," a manager at the Panwa Beach Resort on Phuket's southwest coast told AFP, adding that the waves had not caused extensive damage at her property.

Frantic relatives of boatsmen, some of whom apparently captained tourist boats in Phuket waters, called in to say the boats had capsized or went missing.

Tourists and residents were reported rushing to higher ground or clogging the road routes to the north heading off the island, which is connected to the Thai mainland by a road bridge.
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Tidal waves sweep tourists away

Tsunami slams resort island

Bangkok - At least 10 people were killed, 200 injured and several others were missing on Sunday after a series of tsunamis caused by a massive earthquake off Indonesia hit Thailand's popular resort island of Phuket, hospital staff and officials said.

"Now we have at least 10 dead and more than 100 injuries, while other injured have been sent to other hospitals," an official at the state-run Thalang Hospital told AFP.

The secretary of Thailand's meteorological department, Supareuk Tansriratanawong, said 200 people had been injured by the huge waves, which flooded several beach resorts and the main town of Patong on the west side of the island.
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Tsunami slams resort island

Sperm whales also vulnerable to the bends

Washington - Sperm whales routinely dive more than three kilometres below the ocean surface to hunt for giant squid, but a study shows the huge mammals suffer a chronic loss of bone tissue from the bends, a painful condition well-known to human divers.

It has long been believed that sperm whales and other deep-diving mammals are immune from decompression illness, or the bends, which human divers encounter when they surface too rapidly and force nitrogen bubbles into their blood and tissues. Sperm whales have been known to dive as deeply as 3 200 metres in the ocean and stay down as long as an hour.

Michael J Moore and Greg A Early of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found evidence of the bends in bones of modern sperm whales, but they also found the same damaged skeletons in whale bones up to 111 years old.

This suggests, said Moore, that sperm whales are neither anatomically or physiologically immune from the effects of deep diving, even though they spend much of their 70-year lifetime at great ocean depths.

A report on the findings appears this week in the journal Science.

Decompression illness is caused when an air breather, such as human or a whale, is put under great pressure, such as in a deep dive, followed by a quick release of the pressure, as happens when a diver surfaces too quickly.

Under great pressure, nitrogen inhaled from the atmosphere supersaturates the body's tissue. When the pressure is released suddenly, the nitrogen reverts to gas and forms bubbles in the tissue and in the blood. When the bubbles enter a vessel, they can block the flow of blood, starving the tissue of oxygen. When this happens in bone and cartilage, the bone dies and is not repaired, said Moore.

The result leaves pits and lesions in the bones. If there are repeated cases of bends, the injuries expand and eventually form deep gaps in the bone. In humans, this condition, called osteonecrosis, is typically caused by the bends.

Moore and Early found the same condition when they examined the skeletons of sperm whales. They found that the older the animal was at death, the more bone damage from bends was evident.

Moore said the study shows that the decompression injury commonly experienced by the sperm whale "is not associated with any modern industrial or man made changes over the last century."

Instead, it is a natural part of the life of the sperm whale.

"It is a cumulative, non-lethal cost of doing business for the sperm whale," said Moore.

He said sperm whales apparently avoid decompression injury by controlling how rapidly they surface to breathe and how long they spend on the surface.

As a result Moore said that any human activity that changes a whale's behaviour could cause it to be further injured by the bends.

For instance, said Moore, if acoustic signals from submarines or other human activities caused a sperm whale to surface too rapidly or to remain on the surface too long, it could trigger the bends and cause injury to the animal.

"If any acoustic stresses (such as submarine radio or sonar signals) were to override normal behaviour, then they may run the risk of getting acute nitrogen problems which could cause pain and potentially strand them," said Moore. "This study opens the question that acoustic stresses may be impacting the normal physiology of these animals."

Moore emphasised that any impact on sperm whales by man-made causes is only speculation.

However, a study last year found that some beaked whales that beached themselves in the Canary Islands after a military sonar test bore evidence of suffering from decompression illness, suggesting they were rapidly driven to the surface by noxious underwater sounds.

"This study is very important because it provides solid evidence to dispel the long-held belief that deep-diving whales are immune from the bends," said Phil Clapham, a whale expert with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. "But beyond that, it's a significant piece of work because it shows the potential for whales to suffer serious consequences if they're forced to surface rapidly."

Clapham said there is a "growing body of evidence" that submarine sonar signals can have this effect on some deep-diving whales.
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Sperm whales also vulnerable to the bends

23 December 2004

Shark repellent sales leap after attack

Adelaide - Sales of shark repellents have been so strong since a teenage surfer was killed by a white pointer here last week that Australian shops are expected to run out of stock two days before Christmas, the suppliers said Wednesday.

At between AUS$500 (about R1 600) and AUS$600 a unit, sales of the "Shark Shield" were a relatively slow six-a-day before an attack in which a 29-year-old man was killed by two white pointers while surfing near Margaret river, south of Perth on July 10.

Designer and manufacturer Rod Hartley of Adelaide said sales jumped to 15 a day immediately after the Perth attack.

Sales climbed again after another fatal shark attack off Queensland's Great Barrier Reef on December 11, then after the attack off Adelaide on December 16 sales leapt to about 60 a day, a tenfold rise since the Perth attack, with many parents buying them as Christmas presents for their children.

One store alone in a West Australian country town sold 180 units - almost AUS$100 000 worth, in three months.

"Sales are so strong now that product is likely to run out by the end of today or tomorrow... and new stock, unfortunately, won't be available until early next year," Hartley told AFP.

Hartley's Adelaide-based company SeaChange developed and perfected the electronic devices from a South African design for which he acquired a world exclusive licence in 1999.

The devices, already in use by all Australian police forces and military, are currently being trialled by US military authorities.

They emit an electronic field that surrounds a swimmer or surfer handicapping special receptors on a shark's snout.

The receptors connect to the shark's central nervous system and when it first encounters the electronic field it feels some discomfort. If it proceeds the electrodes will induce muscle spasms causing the predator to flee.
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Shark repellent sales leap after attack

Southern Cape swamped by record deluges

Thunderstorms swept across the drought-ravaged southern Cape on Wednesday, flooding towns, cutting power supplies and washing away roads.

In Suurbraak and Riversdale, people who had been cut off by swollen rivers were airlifted to safety.

Knysna and Robertson had the most rain ever measured in a single day in December since records began in the 1880s.

The unexpected downpours came as most of the southern Cape towns were in the grip of a summer drought and subjected to severe water restrictions.

Two adults and two children on a farm near Suurbraak were airlifted to safety by the Red Cross Skymed helicopter and in Riversdale a mother and child were rescued from a rooftop by the Nokia Surf Rescue helicopter.

In Knysna, 189mm of rain fell between 8am and 2pm, turning streets into rivers and flooding shops, restaurants, municipal offices and homes. The average December rainfall for Knysna is 53mm. Yesterday's rain was more than double Knysna's highest rainfall ever recorded in 24 hours in December, which was 72mm in 1970. It is the highest 24-hour December rainfall since records began in 1880.

Megan Mason, of The Olive Tree restaurant, said the water was about one metre deep in her Main Street restaurant.

"Some of the orders had been cooked, so we served customers sitting on tables. Now all the plugs are under water, so everything's switched off and all the meat and supplies in the fridges and freezers are going to go off," Mason said.

In Robertson, 175mm of rain fell between 8am and 2pm. The average December rainfall for Robertson is 16mm and the highest ever recorded there in 24 hours in December is 45mm.

Mariana Oliver, of the Cape Town weather office, said yesterday's rain was the highest recorded for the town in 24 hours since records began in 1877. Worcester had only 1,2mm on Wednesday.

Roy Feldman, head of disaster management in Robertson, said the R62 tourist route had been closed because of flooding.

Helicopters from the South African Air Force's 22 Squadron were on standby at Ysterplaat after reports that a major dam in Robertson was in danger of collapsing, but by late yesterday the dam wall was still secure.

In Sedgefield, two roads were closed and the caravan park and several houses were flooded. Resident Peter Schutte, who was trapped in his bakkie with his wife and 11-week-old son, said: "The rain was pouring down and suddenly this whole sand dune came sliding over the road and it came almost up to the bonnet. It took three 4x4s and about 25 people with shovels to get us out."

In Mossel Bay, there were power cuts and at Hartenbos, a Jewish youth camp was flooded. Swellendam municipal manager Trevor Botha said damage in the town was estimated to be about R1.5 million.

"We had over 100mm from 5am to noon," Botha said. "Two bridges over the Koornlands river were damaged and houses were flooded. The flood damaged the water supply, so about 90 dwellings were without water. We had one powerline down and boundary walls collapsed. I live on a koppie but, when the canal was blocked, the water flowed through my house."

Cleeve Robertson, head of Western Cape emergency medical services, criticised the weather office for not issuing a warning to the emergency services. He also said he was "very unhappy" with the way the rescues had been handled.

"There was very poor planning concerning the helicopter rescues. It's something I've got to sort out," Robertson said.

He said that on the N1 near Laingsburg, he drove through the worst thunderstorm he had ever experienced.

"I had to stop because visibility was so bad," he said. "Afterwards, the koppies were white with hail."

By late yesterday, most of the floodwater was receding and the authorities were mopping up and assessing damage.

Jo-ann Bekker reports that the floods will not ease Knysna's water crisis. The town's Akkerkloof storage dam was still only 15 percent full as a result of faulty pumps and pipes. The town's water supply was being met by drawing water from the Knysna River.
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Southern Cape swamped by record deluges

21 December 2004

NSRI warns beachgoers to be prepared

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was involved in five rescues at the weekend, including aiding six people on board a six-metre ski-boat that capsized near Gordon's Bay, and two yachts in difficulty near Robben Island.

NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said a rubber duck carrying two people capsized in Zeekoevlei at midday on Sunday.

Local law enforcement officials witnessed the incident and called the Nokia rescue helicopter for assistance. However, the pair were able to swim to safety without being airlifted.

Shortly after that, another rubber duck with two passengers capsized in Big Bay. Two police officers on duty at the scene swam out and rescued the two men. No one was injured.

An eight-metre boat, Le Petite Paris, ran into difficulties after three-metre swells and a 45-knot south-easterly wind pushed it against the rocks at Cherry Rock, Clifton.

The five people on board managed to swim to safety with the help of Clifton lifeguards.

The NSRI crew on the way to tow the boat to shore then spotted another two men in kayaks who were also in distress.

The men were not adequately prepared, said Lambinon. "They were being blown out to sea and if the NSRI crew had not been there to help, they would have landed up in serious trouble."

The Le Petite Paris was eventually towed to the Oceana Powerboat Club.

Lambinon said the high swells and strong winds along the Atlantic seaboard should die down on Monday. But people should ensure adequate preparedness.

Lambinon advised: "Have communication devices in proper working order. Have the correct distress equipment and check the weather forecast.

"Also, let another responsible person know where you're going and how long you'll be."

Late on Saturday afternoon Cape Town Port Control sent out an alert that the Countess ski-boat had capsized in the surf line. Lambinon said the NSRI launched two rescue boats.

"The Nokia Rescue Helicopter, Metro Rescue, Strand Fire and Rescue and the SA Police Service responded."

NSRI Gordon's Bay station commander Stuart Burgess said witnesses reported seeing the boat capsize.

"All six people on board clung to the hull until it sank. The crew aboard Sanlam Rescuer rescued the two women and four men. They were unhurt and, after giving them time to recover at our base, we took them home to Harbour Island."

The V&A Waterfront NSRI was alerted to a plea for help from yachts off Robben Island.

Station commander Pat van Eysenn said: "We found the yacht Naledi with 10 people on board, a snapped mast and engine trouble."

The second yacht, with seven people on board, was making good headway towards Granger Bay but had no engine power.

No crew members were hurt.
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NSRI warns beachgoers to be prepared

17 December 2004

Deceased diver's parents hoping for closure

In 1994, 20-year-old Deon Dreyer went on a cave-diving expedition.

During the deep-water dive, at Bushman's Cave near Danielskuil in the Northern Cape, the adrenaline junkie blacked out.

Within minutes his body sank 271m to the bottom.

Friday is the 10th anniversary of Deon's disappearance into the watery void.

For a decade his body has been lying in darkness at the bottom of the famous cave.

Deon's parents, Theo and Marie Dreyer, have been desperately trying to recover his body so they can bring some closure to their loss and start healing.

On October 28, when they had just about resigned themselves to never finding their son's remains, Dave Shaw, an Australian pilot and a deep-cave diver who uses a rebreather system (where the gases are recycled) was exploring Bushman's Cave - the world's third-deepest freshwater cave.

That's when he made his grisly discovery.

"As I swept left with my light I saw a body, as plain as day. He was lying on his back, arms in the air and legs outstretched," Shaw said.

Shaw attached his guideline to the diver's remains and ended the dive. When he resurfaced, Shaw met the Dreyers and told them that he would go back and attempt to fetch their son.

"This is a huge dive that has to be very carefully planned, and it is by no means assured that it will result in a successful recovery," Shaw explained this week. "But I will do my best."

Shaw said he lived to explore caves.

"If no one else has been where I am, even better. Depth is by far secondary."

"It is all about exploration, and that's what was so special about the dive in Bushman's Cave."

"At the bottom I was exploring, rather than just reaching the bottom and then starting the ascent. It was because I was exploring that I found Deon's body."

According to the recovery dive's technical co-ordinator, Don Shirley, of the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers, the team - which also includes Dusan Stajokovic, Gerhard du Preez, Lo Vingerling, Mark Andrews, Peter Herbst and Steven Sander - will use closed-circuit rebreather systems when they go down next month.

"The gas we use is only a fraction of that used by conventional divers, which will make the execution of the dive a lot easier," he said.

"At 270m, Dave will use about a litre of gas in a minute whereas a diver using conventional scuba would use about 110 litres in one breath."

Shirley said it would take Shaw 15 minutes to go down to 271m, where they have planned for five minutes, with a contingency plan for an extra minute.

During his bottom time, Shaw will attach a cable to Deon's cylinders and then put a body bag over him. The body will than be passed on to a series of divers who will be spaced out at 50m intervals.

It will take Shaw about 12 hours to come back to the surface - a long process because of decompression.

"Any dive is dangerous, but we have an important job to do for the family," Shirley said.

Since news of the sighting of Deon's body - and it can only be Deon because he is the only diver to have gone missing there - Inspector Theo van Eeden, of Cape Town police's water wing, has been working out some of the logistics.

He knows that there can be no room for error.

"We've got 51 bottles of helium and 18 bottles of oxygen and we've built a pulley system that swivels 360 degrees to help with the recovery," Van Eeden said.

"This is very personal because during the 10 years we've been searching, I've become good friends with the Dreyers."

In his career spanning 34 years he has recovered 792 bodies.

"The other bodies were just bodies, but this is different."

"Helping to bring back Deon means a lot to me, but it will mean so much more to the family. After so long, it will finally bring closure - and they can begin to heal."

In the decade since that fateful expedition, Nuno Gomes, the diver who holds the world record for the deepest cave dive at 282,6m, has also kept his eyes peeled for Deon's body.

Gomes, whose record was made at Bushman's Cave in 1996, said: "I knew that we would one day find it. I'm very relieved."

Theo Dreyer, who will be at the cave with his wife to receive his son's body if the recovery is successful, said he was relieved there was finally a location for Deon's body.

"Now, at last, we can begin to heal."
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Deceased diver's parents hoping for closure

SA temps may rise up to 3%

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told delegates to an international conference in Buenos Aires on Wednesday that temperatures could rise between one and three percent by the middle of this century in South Africa.

He was speaking at the 10th conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Argentinean capital.

Van Schalkwyk said it had also been projected that rainfall would be reduced by between five and 10% in this time.

"South Africa cannot afford not to act because climate change will change the way we live," said Van Schalkwyk.

"The increased temperatures and reduced rainfall will have a major impact on our people with health problems like increased skin cancer rates and waterborne diseases."

Heated discussion

He also predicted that there would be a drop in food production including an estimated drop of 20% in grain production, the extinction of numerous plant and animal species, and the certainty of prolonged and intense water restrictions.

The effects of climate change held challenges for developing nations in terms of developing appropriate responses like the loss of markets relating to reduced demand for coal exports.

"This is why the question of adaptation to climate change has been the subject of such heated discussion," said Van Schalkwyk.

"Governments need to adapt to climate change through measures like improved health programmes, better water resource management, disaster management, and agricultural diversification.

"At the same time we need also to mitigate (against) climate change itself and for this we require much more intensive research and development into renewable energy resources to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, more energy efficient transport and housing models, less consumptive agriculture, and a real transfer of technology and skills from the developed to the developing nations."
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SA temps may rise up to 3%

Current water curbs just a drop in the ocean

South Africa faces "the certainty of prolonged and intense water restrictions", says Environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

He was speaking at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. He said the extinction of numerous plant and animal species and an increase in waterborne diseases were some of the problems climate change would impose on South Africa over the next 50 years which would have a major impact on South Africans' lifestyles.

"It has been projected that average temperatures in South Africa could rise between one-three percent by the middle of the century, and rainfall may be reduced by between five percent and 10 percent."

The increased temperatures and reduced rainfall would have a major impact.

Other anticipated problems included an estimated 20 percent drop in the country's grain production and an increase in skin cancer rates.

Van Schalkwyk said South Africa's vulnerability to climate change had seen plans to deal with it move to the forefront of government's programme of action. It remained "one of the most pressing challenges for both the developed and developing world", he said, urging "the strongest possible international action and global co-operation".

"At the same time we need also to mitigate climate change itself, and for this we require much more intensive research and development into renewable energy resources."

He said South Africa needed to reduce emissions while retaining economic growth and addressing "the challenges of poverty and unemployment in our communities".

"What we are dealing with is not only an environmental issue, it is centrally an economic, social, and sustainable development issue as well," Van Schalkwyk said.
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Current water curbs just a drop in the ocean

'Extinct' dragonfly makes a comeback

A species of dragonfly thought to be extinct has made a dramatic comeback after the removal of invasive alien trees under the Working for Water programme.

The Ceres Stream damsel, or Metacnemis angusta, had not been spotted since 1920, the November/December issue of the Water Wheel reported.

The removal of invasive alien plants in wetland systems has resulted in almost instant recovery of endemic species, including the Ceres Stream damsel.

Once the invaders are removed, adequate sunlight can penetrate the systems and streamside bushes recover, the report says.

These measures also saved the basking malachite damselfly, or Chlorolestes apricans, which was on the brink of extinction.

The harlequin sprite damselfly, or Pseudagrion newtoni, had disappeared from its native area, but has now appeared in a site where alien trees and cattle grazing of river banks had been restricted.
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'Extinct' dragonfly makes a comeback

Four held for poisoning endangered birds

Eleven critically endangered Blue Cranes have been poisoned on a farm near Koppies in the Free State.

Blue Cranes are a protected species in South Africa.

This incident comes after more than 500 Egyptian Geese, Guinea Fowl and other birds were poisoned two weeks ago on a farm in Rouxville.

Four men were arrested in connection with the incident.

Louis Boshoff, owner of the Koppies farm, said 13 Blue Cranes arrived at his farm late on Tuesday afternoon.

"I was excited by their arrival because we have not seen Blue Cranes in this area for many years," said Boshoff.

He said the birds appeared to have visited the farm to drink at one of the dams.

"When I went to the dam on Wednesday, I noticed only two Blue Cranes near the water." Boshoff said he went to investigate and found 11 of the birds dead.

"There were also dead doves and other birds near the water and I immediately suspected poisoning," an angry Boshoff said. He alerted the police who arrested four suspects yesterday morning following a tip-off.

Gerhard Verdoorn of Birdlife SA, said the incident was a serious blow to the country's threatened Blue Crane population.

"We have had a number of incidents in the province this year in which vulnerable bird species have been targeted," he said.
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Four held for poisoning endangered birds

European collectors threaten birds' survival

Birdlife South Africa (BLSA) is investigating several cases that include the poisoning of birds and the removal of nests and eggs from a property.

According to BLSA, more than 500 birds were poisoned in separate cases in the Free State, and the removal of nests and eggs from a private property took place in Zimbabwe.

Several men, apparently from South Africa, have been accused of removing the nests and eggs of yellow-streaked bulbuls, white-tailed crested flycatchers, variable sunbirds and orange ground thrushes, during a walk on a property in Zimbabwe.

Gerhard Verdoorn, director of BLSA said the removal of nests and eggs is a criminal offence.

Read the full article at www.iol.co.za
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European collectors threaten birds' survival

15 December 2004

Antarctic penguins 'threatened'

Tens of thousands of Antarctic penguin chicks could starve to death in the next few weeks as a huge iceberg blocks access to coastal feeding grounds, a New Zealand official said on Tuesday.

A 3 000km� iceberg, known as B15A, could also block the sea route used to supply three science stations during the Southern Hemisphere summer, said Lou Sanson, chief executive of the government scientific agency Antarctica New Zealand.

The iceberg has blocked sea ice flows from McMurdo Sound as it moves at a speed of 2km a day. US researchers have estimated that B15A contains enough fresh water to supply Egypt's Nile River complex for 80 years, Sanson said.

He called the iceberg "the largest floating thing on the planet right now," and said it could block four supply ships due to arrive in Antarctica in a month.

Three thousand breeding pairs of Adele penguins on Antarctic's Cape Royds face a 180km round trip to bring food to their chicks, because their access to ocean feeding grounds has been cut by the ice build-up.

"So by the time a penguin comes in from the ice edge on a return 180km walk they've used all the food" they gathered when they reach their nests, he said.

Annual hatching 'predicted to fail'

"Penguin researchers are predicting that the annual hatching is pretty certain to fail," Sanson said, meaning most chicks will die.

Scientists also fear that only about 10% of the 50 000 breeding pairs of Adele penguins at nearby Cape Bird will rear a chick this season, Sanson added.

Adult penguins there face a 100km round trip across the ice to reach open water and food.

Antarctica New Zealand is working with the United States and Italian Antarctic programmes on alternatives for receiving vital fuel supplies for their science bases in late January.

A US icebreaker, fuel tanker and cargo ship plus an Italian cargo vessel are due to deliver a year's supply of fuel and food at that time, he said.

The alternatives are to break a 130km channel through the pack ice to reach Winter Quarters Bay on the McMurdo Sound coast - or offload the fuel and other supplies on the ice edge, pumping fuel through temporary lines several miles to storage tanks, he said.

All Antarctic bases have contingency supplies of a year's food and fuel, Sanson said.

Currently there is "more fast (blocked) ice in McMurdo Sound than we've ever recorded in living history for this time of year," Sanson said, adding that the iceberg has been stopping normal winds and water currents from breaking up sea ice in McMurdo Sound.
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Antarctic penguins 'threatened'

'Magnetic' sharks add bite to compass theory

Marine biologists say they have obtained the first proof that sharks can spot changes in magnetic fields, boosting evidence that the fish have an internal compass to guide them as well as a phenomenal sense of smell.

A Hawaii University team trained six sandbar sharks and one scalloped hammerhead shark to associate food with an artificial magnetic field, they report in a publication of Britain's Royal Society.

The field, derived from a copper coil surrounding the sharks' seven-metre diameter tank, was switched on every time food was placed on the tank floor.

The conditioned sharks were then put through their paces in a series of 11 trials conducted over six weeks in which the field was switched on at random times, but no food was made available.

The sharks still converged on the usual feeding site, proving they had detected the field.

Until now, evidence of sharks' magnetic compass has been circumstantial, based mainly on sightings of tiger sharks and blue sharks that swim in straight lines for long distances across the ocean, a feat that is unlikely to be accounted for by sense of smell alone.

Scalloped hammerhead sharks have also been known to converge on seamounts - mountains that rise from the ocean floor, where there are quirks in earth's magnetic field.

The next step is to find out how sharks detect magnetic fields and to measure their sensitivity.

The study appears on Wednesday in the publication Journal of The Royal Society Interface.

Last month, University of North Carolina researchers unveiled experiments showing that tiny magnetic particles in pigeons' upper beaks help the birds to carry out long-range navigation.
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'Magnetic' sharks add bite to compass theory

Crayfish are stolen from our plates on spurious grounds, to benefit the wealthy

Crayfish - who does this resource belong to?

It used to be a resource widely available to South Africans to catch for their own use. For those who could not, purchase was possible at very low prices.

The prevailing assumption was that this natural resource belonged to the people of South Africa and that it was so prolific as to be practically inexhaustible.

But today it has become a very expensive food within the means of only the rich and very few others.

The fundamental reason for the change is that instead of the resource being regarded as belonging to the people of South Africa a bureaucracy has been set up that is allowed to dispense access as it sees fit in total disregard of the interests of the people and with accountability to none.

Under the rules enacted by this bureaucracy, Marine and Coastal Management, over 80% of the total catch finds its way into exports.

The profits accrue to a very small proportion of our population and the enjoyment of the resource effectively is largely the preserve of foreigners who aren't even tourists!

While it may sound like an exaggeration to say that MCM regards itself as accountable to nobody, letters questioning MCM policy go unanswered for nine months or more.

The particular questions I have raised includes the crucial one of to whom the resource belongs in the first place and where MCM gets the right to deny South Africans access while effectively favouring foreign consumers.

Also, why are recreational crayfishers limited to less than 10% of the catch while also being subject to far more limited hours of catching and a much shorter season than is the case with commercial catchers?

And why are skindivers denied the use of boats as a base for catching while no such restriction applies to the use of crayfish nets?

A serious effort was made over the years to engage MCM in discussion on these matters without success, until last month. MCM has now given what purports to be reasons for its ridiculous regulations, but it still makes no effort to state who it regards as the owner(s) of the resource.

To the question on discrimination against skindivers, MCM advises as follows: "Divers have the ability to select the biggest lobsters and remove them from the water. This selective removal of the largest individuals from the population has many biological risks to the resource."

Any skindiver will recognise this response as nonsense. The days are long gone when extra large crayfish were within the very limited scope of divers who have to rely on holding their breath.

In any event, if it is harmful to catch the largest specimens, why has MCM not enacted a rule to regulate a maximum size?

It is also generally known among crayfishers that the largest specimens caught these days are by methods that do not involve diving at all.

MCM goes on to say that: "Not allowing people with hoopnets to travel with diving equipment is a compliance measure as it would otherwise becomes (sic) impossible to tell if a person caught the lobsters by diving or with a hoopnet."

It should be noted that when a hoopnet gets stuck on the bottom (which happens hundreds of times during a season), it is not permissible to release it by using diving equipment.

Not only is the net lost, but the entire catch in the net is wasted. The obvious answer is to do away with the ridiculous prohibition on diving from a boat.

It seems that MCM hates divers. Divers are already at a disadvantage as diving is far more exhausting than using hoopnets.

Nor can divers hope to match depth range of those who use nets. Diving is moreover a healthy activity that should be encouraged.

The following MCM statement illustrates the extent of MCM's paranoia in respect of divers: "It is correct that the use of boats enables one to catch far more lobsters than without and we therefore want to discourage recreational divers from diving from boats.

Moreover, this would increase effort from this sector, as other boat divers such as spearfishers would then have access to the resource."

In view of the fact that there is evidently no limit on the number of net crayfishers this statement makes no sense. And, instead of encouraging catching methods that require physical fitness, these are demonised for no apparent reason.

In answer to the matter of creating an artificial shortage through exports, MCM advises that "the department cannot dictate to commercial fishers what they must do with their allocations and by exporting the lobsters they obviously try to accrue the biggest economic return possible and in so doing creates (sic) important source of foreign currency earnings".

The point that MCM fails to address is that commercial catchers, with their very long catching season unlimited by hours of the day or days of the week, are placed by MCM in an extremely privileged position.

Recreational catchers in contrast have to complete their catching by 4pm, which in summer means up to four hours before sundown!

And from February to April they are restricted to weekends only. MCM's claim that crayfish export constitutes an important source of foreign exchange earnings makes no sense at all in the current environment of a strong rand that has such a devastating effect on several categories of employment.

If MCM had any interest in the Proudly South African campaign it would appreciate the good sense of phasing out crayfish exports altogether.

By keeping the benefits of the crayfish resource within the country we would all benefit for the same reason that beneficiation of mineral resources is being encouraged.

But MCM's current preference for foreigners presumably means that it would also condone the creation of an artificial shortage of diesel fuel if the oil companies found it more profitable to export than to sell locally.

MCM's policy is to provide the commercial fishery with a huge quota (3 527 tons) called the Total Allowable Catch which, as we have noted, is overwhelmingly exported.

Instead of putting the recreational catch on a similar basis, it has resorted to enacting a set of prohibitions which in most cases (such as the prohibition on diving from a boat) defies reason.

Its claim that differential treatment is necessary for enforcement does not hold water.

While there is undoubtedly good reason to limit the total catch and also the bag of an individual recreational crayfisher, MCM gives no indication why recreational crayfishers should not be given a fixed allocation as is the case with commercial catchers.

Furthermore, as recreational crayfishers are required to report on what they have caught, the way is open to prosecute those who do not meet this requirement.

Notwithstanding MCM's reluctance ever to discuss what it does, it nevertheless makes some spurious claims of a scientific basis for its tortuous reasoning:

"We finally would like to state that all the regulations that are in place have been created with many years of thought, experience, trial and error and are therefore necessary for the proper management of the resource and should not be subjected to change without good scientific reason."

I point out that not a single scientific reason is cited for MCM's highly discriminatory regulations and its total avoidance of discussion indicates a high degree of comfort with its present arrogance.

Recreational crayfishers are generally ecologically conscious and would respond positively if given reasonable treatment.

What really requires urgent attention is the obvious need to phase out exports, thereby bringing down the price to local consumers and reducing pressure on the resource to the point where very little effort would be needed to ensure its preservation.
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Crayfish are stolen from our plates on spurious grounds, to benefit the wealthy

Mediterranean dolphins too thin, study finds

Jerusalem - One-third of the bottle-nose dolphins swimming off Israel's Mediterranean coast are too thin, apparently due to a lack of food from overfishing, researcher said Tuesday.

A five-year study followed 74 dolphins, who were identified by their dorsal fins, comparable to fingerprints in humans. Photographs showed that ribs were visible in one-third of the dolphins, said Aviad Scheinin, a doctoral student who lead the study at the University of Haifa.

Many of the 100 to 200 dolphins living off Israel's shores trail fishing boats, eating the catch that is thrown back into the water. This type of feeding demonstrates the competition between the fishermen and the dolphins, Sheinin said.

Israeli fisherman have also reported a drop in the number of fish in recent years.

The dolphins could also be suffering some sort of illness or have a parasite that is causing the problem, Sheinin said.

Researchers did not find exceptional levels of pollution, said Dan Kerem, a senior researcher at the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies at Haifa University which also participated in the study.

One long-term cause could be a drop in nutrients entering the sea from the fertile Nile River after Egypt completed the Aswan Dam in the 1970s, Kerem said. It is hard to determine how long the dolphin's condition has been poor since no research was conducted before this study, Kerem said.

Bottle-nose dolphines in general have not been doing well in the Mediterranean, Sheinin said. Researchers in Greece have found that 40 percent of the dolphins in the area are very thin, he said. However, many other countries in the Mediterranean region have not done local research on their dolphin populations.

The researchers are hoping to set up nautical nature reserves in the Mediterranean where fishing would be prohibited, Sheinin said.

Sheinin is conducting the research as part of his doctorate on the interaction between dolphins and the local fishing industry. Haifa University and the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center also participated in the study.
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Mediterranean dolphins too thin, study finds

13 December 2004

Warmer water may lead to coral growth - study

Coral reefs around the world could expand in size by up to a third because of increased ocean warming, according to a new Australian study which contradicts the long-held belief that global warming is destroying the reefs.

Previous research has predicted a decline of between 20 and 60 percent in the size of coral reefs by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels because of increasing carbon dioxide levels caused by the greenhouse effect in ocean surface waters.

But the newly published research, by a team led by oceanographer Ben McNeil of Sydney's University of New South Wales, suggests that present coral reef calcification rates are not in decline and are equivalent to late 19th century levels.

"Our analysis suggests that ocean warming will foster considerably faster future rates of coral reef growth that will eventually exceed pre-industrial rates by as much as 35 percent by 2100," McNeil said in a statement on Monday.

"Our finding stands in stark contrast to previous predictions that coral reef growth will suffer large, potentially catastrophic, decreases in the future."

The research has been published in the latest edition of the journal Geophysical Research Letters by McNeil and colleagues Richard Matear of the government's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and David Barnes of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, at Townsville in north-eastern Australia.

Experts say seawater surface temperatures and the quantity of carbonate in seawater dictate the growth rate of coral reefs which are built from calcium carbonate when red algae cement together a framework of coral skeletons and sediments.

The Australian scientists have observed the calcification-temperature relationship at significant reef-building colonies around the world in the Indo-Pacific and at massive Porites reef colonies in Australia, Hawaii, Thailand, the Persian Gulf and the South Pacific island of New Ireland.

They say the predicted increase in the rate of coral reef calcification is most likely due to an enhancement in in photosynthetic rates of red algae.

They used projections of ocean warming and Carbon dioxide concentration from a CSIRO climate model that accounts for atmosphere-ice and ocean carbon cycles.

A report released earlier this year by scientists at Queensland University found that the brightly coloured corals that make up the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's natural wonders, would be largely dead by 2050 because of rising sea temperatures.
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Warmer water may lead to coral growth - study

Water: Now it's a crisis

Cape Town's five major dams would be bone dry in 18 months if we did not have water restrictions and if rainfall patterns remained the same.

This shock projection comes as city water officials say Cape Town's failure to save enough water means we are facing a crisis.

Two months since restrictions began we are more than 30% short of the target of saving 10.7 billion litres.

City water officials say we have to make up these deficits, as well as meet the targets for the next few months, if water restrictions are not to be strengthened.

A projection of dam levels, carried out by the Cape Argus and based on previous rainfall and dam level patterns, showed in December 2003 that the dams were 71.2% full, dropping to less than 40% by June this year.

Now, in December 2004, the dams are just 53.5% full. With similar rainfall patterns and no restrictions, a similar drop over the next year or so would see dams empty by April 2006.

The City of Cape Town and the Water Affairs Department agreed with these projections. But they said it would never happen because they would not allow it to - and restrictions are the tool they would use.

The current restrictions aim to see everyone implementing a 20% cut in their water consumption.
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Water: Now it's a crisis

Shark kills fisherman on Great Barrier Reef

Sydney - A fisherman who screamed for help as a shark mauled him at a popular tourist spot on Australia's Great Barrier Reef on Saturday died before onlookers could pull him to safety, police said.

The 38-year-old Australian man was spearfishing about 60km off Port Douglas on the northeast coast in an area known to tourist charter boat operators as Opal Reef when the unknown species of shark attacked, a police spokesperson said.

"His two mates in a nearby boat heard screaming coming from the water, then saw him surrounded by a pool of blood," the spokesperson said.

"He died before a rescue helicopter could get to him."

His companions eventually managed to pull him back on deck after the shark disappeared but he died a short time later from serious injuries, she said.

Thousands of tourists visit the Port Douglas stretch of the Barrier Reef each year, including in the past former United States president Bill Clinton.
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Shark kills fisherman on Great Barrier Reef

Cramped Maldives take land from the ocean

Mal�, Maldive Islands - Life can be cramped when you live on a remote cluster of tiny coral islands in the Indian Ocean so the Maldives has plumped for a novel solution - build an island from scratch.

Emerging from the sea where a turquoise lagoon used to sit, man-made Hulhumale is springing to life as an overflow to the congested capital, Mal�, a short boat ride away.

Around 1 500 people now live in a first cluster of housing erected on the 188ha island, a giant building site to which the government hopes around 15 percent of the country's 300 000 mostly Sunni Muslim inhabitants will opt to migrate over the next 15 years.

Read the full article at www.iol.co.za
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Cramped Maldives take land from the ocean

10 December 2004

First black woman to be part of the South African navy's diving unit

Cape Town - "Hold on and focus." This is what has brought marine Nompumelelo Goba, 21, the first black woman to be part of the South African navy's diving unit, where she is today.

She passionately explained how "curiosity" played an important role in her choice of career.

"People initially said I was 'crazy' and would never manage to do it."

She is the only woman in the group of just five black divers in the South African navy.

Commodore Shawn de Boer, commander of this unit, had a lot of praise of Goba on Thursday and said her success wasn't tokenism in any way. "She has what it takes and I will place my life in her hands under water."

He said the navy had a critical shortage in divers of about 55% at present.

"In Durban, for example, there are only five divers instead of 16. Our divers are mostly lured away by commercial diving units because of their (navy divers') professionalism," he added.

Captain Peter Smith of the Simonstown navy base said more financial support and direct contact with communities to identify potential divers could solve their problem.

He said wrong candidates have been identified in the past, which has led to low success rates.

Next year, the navy will be training 16 new recruits of which 13 will be black. The elite divers of the navy are responsible for submarine rescues, under-water bomb detonations as well as air and sea rescues.

Goba described her seven months of training as "intellectually challenging" and expressed the hope that more women would join the navy's diving unit.
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First black woman to be part of the South African navy's diving unit

09 December 2004

Drought expected to persist

Johannesburg - Water should be used cautiously as rainfall currently being experienced in parts of the country had not broken the drought, the water affairs and forestry department warned on Thursday.

The poor rainfall patterns were expected to continue into the new year, said department director-general Barbara Schreiner.

"... citizens are asked to continue to be sparing in their use of water during the holiday season," she said.

Over the last three years the water levels in the country's dams had dropped faster than they had during the droughts of the 1980s and the 1990s, which were among the worst experienced in South Africa.

The rapid decrease in water levels was caused by a combination of high temperatures, low rainfall and higher consumption.

"We advise farmers, particularly in the central part of the country, to be cautious as the rainfall patterns are least likely to improve," Schreiner said.

She warned that although Gauteng had thus far escaped water restrictions it was still a "distinct possibility".

The department would monitor the situation.

The SA Weather Services warned last week that poor rainfall would continue over the holiday period and into early next year because of the weak El Nino system that had hit the country.

She said history showed there was a tendency for droughts to last anywhere between three and seven years
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Drought expected to persist

Fishermen want 'sustainable access' to sea

A group of fishermen in the Western Cape have launched a high court challenge to be allowed what they call "sustainable access" to the sea.

Cape Town non-government organisation Masifundise, which is also a party to the application, said on Wednesday that its lawyers had filed papers in the Cape High Court earlier this week.

Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk had been cited as respondent.

The challenge was an attempt to get Marine and Coastal Management to give "legal recognition" to traditional and artisanal fishers, who had been increasingly marginalised and impoverished over the years.

There are about 5 000 of these fishers in the Western Cape, Masifundise director, Naseegh Jaffer, said.

They depended on the sea for food and a "livelihood" for day-to-day living costs. However, the government was forcing them to operate as small businesses, for which they were neither suitably qualified nor skilled.

The applicants were not seeking to overturn the quota system, which was useful for dealing with commercial fishing.

Instead, they wanted "traditional and artisanal" fishers recognised as a category to whom the quota system would not apply.

Jaffer said it was likely the application would be heard next year.
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Fishermen want 'sustainable access' to sea

07 December 2004

World's coral reefs under threat

Oslo - About 70 percent of the world's coral reefs have been wrecked or are at risk from human activities but some are showing surprising resilience to global warming, a report said on Monday.

The international survey, by 240 experts in 98 nations, said that pollution, over-fishing, rising temperatures, coastal development and diseases were among major threats to reefs, vast ecosystems often called the nurseries of the seas.

"Twenty percent of the world's coral reefs have been effectively destroyed or show no immediate prospects of recovery," said the report, issued on the first day of a United Nations environmental conference in Buenos Aires lasting until December 17.

The Status of Coral Reefs of the World 2004 also said that another "24 percent of the world's reefs are under imminent risk of collapse through human pressures, and a further 26 percent are under a longer-term threat of collapse."

"The major emerging threat to coral reefs in the past decade has been coral bleaching and mortality associated with global climate change," it said.

Bleaching is a mass death of corals caused by a sudden rise in ocean temperatures.

Even so, it said some reefs had recovered sharply from a 1998 bleaching which seriously damaged 16 percent of all reefs worldwide, especially in the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

"About 40 percent of the reefs that were seriously damaged in 1998 are either recovering well or have recovered," it said. Some of the report's highlights were issued in Bangkok in November.

It said the 1998 global warming had been the most serious in 1 000 years but was likely to happen about every 50 years in future, largely because of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels in cars, factories or power stations.

Corals are formed by a build-up of limestone skeletons left by tiny marine animals called polyps. The graveyards can become giant structures like the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, colourful homes to thousands of species from sharks to seaweed.

The report said nations around the world should do more to cut pollution, restrict fishing and fight to curb emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide to protect corals.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) environmental group, which took part in the report, urged governments meeting in Buenos Aires to set a goal of limiting a rises in temperatures linked to global warming to 2�C.

"To save coral reefs, governments must reduce carbon dioxide emissions quickly, but also create marine protected areas," said Simon Cripps, head of the WWF's global marine programme. Temperatures have risen by 0.6�C since the late 1800s.

The report said the major success of the past five years had been strict protection of a third of the Great Barrier Reef by Australia. The United States is taking similar steps off Hawaii and Florida.

But 75 percent of coral reefs are in developing countries where human populations are rising rapidly and millions depend on reefs for food.
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World's coral reefs under threat

06 December 2004

False Bay beaches 'have never been safer'

A comprehensive strategy has been launched to keep the Cape's False Bay beaches safe this summer - including shark-warning sirens, professional paid spotters, flags, radio communication and signboards.

Emotions are still running high after Tyna Webb, 77, was killed by a shark off Fish Hoek beach but the authorities say False Bay beaches have never been safer.

The City of Cape Town this week formed a working group that will include a wide network of people to work on shark-related issues.

Desire Galant, director of community facilities, said the group would be a city-wide initiative that would work closely with shark researchers to plan more effectively and be pro-active about what could be done.

Felicity Purchase, ward councillor for the Fish Hoek area who also heads a shark management committee, said warning systems were working extremely well and people needed to calm down because the beaches were safer than they had ever been.

A trust fund had been set up to pay fishermen to keep an eye out for sharks at Fish Hoek and Muizenberg from 7am-7pm. Purchase said it was hoped enough money would be raised to include Glencairn, Long, Sunrise and Monwabisi beaches.

"If a fisherman sees a shark he will radio law enforcement and the lifesavers, the siren will sound and the flag will go up."

Lifesavers and law enforcement offices would then get everybody out the water and a rubber duck would be used, if necessary, to fetch people further out. There were also spotters on Boyes Drive.

Internationally recognised shark-alert flags were being made. Lifesavers and law enforcement officers would also receive first-aid training, shark attack kits and lectures on how to use them.

Lesley Rochat of the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance is producing shark awareness boards to go up at strategic beaches as part of the Save Our Seas Foundation M-Sea Programme, a shark conservation project.

The boards will contain information about sharks likely to be seen in the area, educational content and information on what to do to avoid being bitten - and what to do if you are.

Experts say the likelihood of a shark attack is minuscule. Annual South African statistics show:

- 15 people are killed by poisonous snakes.
- 200 are killed by lightning.
- 408 drown.
- 871 burn to death.
- 10 000 are killed in road accidents.
- 20 000 are murdered.
- 29 000 succumb to smoking-related diseases.
- 370 000 died from Aids-related diseases in 2003 (UNAids/WHO).

Only eight have been killed by sharks in South African waters in the last 43 years.
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False Bay beaches 'have never been safer'

Shark pictures 'not the real thing'

Pictures of a massive dead Great White shark on the back of a bakkie are doing the rounds on email with the subject line saying "Caught at Monwabisi and Strandfontein Beach yesterday" - but experts have dismissed it as a hoax.

The grim pictures show the shark with a hook and trace still attached. Kalk Bay harbour master Pat Stacey says the pictures appear to have been taken in Australia.

He said it was virtually impossible for a shark that size to be caught and for it to be kept quiet. "Someone will always tell us and the trek fishermen would also report it."

Stacey believes it was someone simply trying to cause a sensation. Anyone who killed a Great White faced 10 years in prison or a R50 000 fine.

Earlier, a vigilante group threatened to bait Great Whites with chickens stuffed with broken glass and to shoot every shark in False Bay, after Tyna Webb, 77, was killed by a shark at Fish Hoek. But Mike Meyer of Marine and Coastal Management believes it was just hysteria.

He said at least three people had confirmed that the shark pictures had been taken years ago. "It's a hoax and just as well," he said. Meyer said Marine and Coastal Management had tried to track the origin of the email but it had been sent to so many people that it was difficult to find where it started.

He wished people would put the issue in perspective: "So few people are killed by sharks compared to hippos and other wild animals, yet there is so much hysteria around a shark attack."

And these weren't the first hoax pictures Meyer had seen.

"There is one that turns up every so often, of huge sharks near bathers off a beach in KwaZulu-Natal during a sardine run. But someone has just Photoshopped them in - we have the original picture in which there are no sharks."
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Shark pictures 'not the real thing'

Van Schalkwyk eases 4x4 ban

Regulations controlling the use of 4x4s on South Africa's beaches have been changed, allowing people who are physically disabled to apply for a permit to take their off-road vehicles onto the sand.

The new regulations, published on Friday, will also allow people taking part in organised fishing competitions, as well as film crews, to obtain permits to drive onto beaches around the country.

Speaking at an event in Cape Town to mark the launch of the amended regulations, said his department had noted some problems with the original regulations, which came into effect almost three years ago.

"One of the most pressing has been the severe limitation on access to our beaches by people with disabilities," he said.

Friday's event, on a Sea Point beach, coincides with the International Day of Disabled Persons.

According to the new regulations, permits will be issued - by the department, at a cost to the applicant of R150 - to disabled persons whose "functional mobility prevents him or her from being able to walk on beach surfaces". Applicants are also required to obtain written proof of their disability from the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities.

Van Schalkwyk said others who could apply for a permit for access to beaches in 4x4s included, "people taking part in organised angling competitions, people who want access to private property, and people who would like to do certain types of research". The regulations also make provision for those "producing an advertising feature, still photograph or television programme".

"But... there will be no general lifting of this 4x4 ban and opening up our beaches again," Van Schalkwyk said.

He also warned of a "crackdown" on inland 4x4 routes.

"We already have almost 400 of these inland 4x4 tracks, and we need to start regulating them.

"I will in the new year start a process to sit down with the relevant stakeholders in this industry. In some instances where these routes are managed responsibly, the results are there for everybody to see.

"But, I must say, in some of our river beds and sensitive mountain areas there really are problems. There will be a crackdown on where that is happening," he said.

In a statement issued at the event, Van Schalkwyk also acknowledged there were "concerns about the alleged impact on tourism of the recreational 4x4 beach driving ban in some areas".

For this reason, a pilot socio-economic impact study was being carried out in KwaZulu-Natal. This would "establish scientifically if there has been any lasting negative economic impact, and if so, whether alternative forms of eco-tourism have off-set such negative impacts", he said.
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Van Schalkwyk eases 4x4 ban

03 December 2004

Anti-poaching team to take lie detector tests

The Overstrand Municipality is looking for a tough, committed group of people to join their revamped anti-poaching unit and who will be prepared to undergo lie detector tests before they get their jobs.

Last month, three Marines were suspended after they were found with perlemoen in their vehicle.

Johann Erasmus, senior project manager of the Overstrand Marines, said they would be employing an extra 30 staff members to swell their staff complement to 43.

The Marines will work closely with Marine and Coastal Management who will also be employing extra fisheries inspectors in the area.

This will form part of the new Operation Trident anti-poaching initiative to replace the defunct police Operation Neptune anti-poaching project.

Erasmus said: "We've encountered so much corruption in the anti-poaching work, which is just unacceptable."

"The public put their trust in us to do the job and we can't afford to have anyone who is corrupt."

"Only people who agree to take a lie detector test in the interview and agree to undergo random lie detector tests once they are employed, will be considered for the job."

"If they fail it, they won't get the job. If they fail it once they are employed, they will be fired."

The Marines will be on patrol in shifts for 24 hours, on foot, by vehicle and by boat.

The Marines will also set up a 24-hour operations centre where the public can report suspected poaching incidents anonymously.

For further information, telephone 028 271 8120. The closing date for applications is December 15
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Anti-poaching team to take lie detector tests

Revoked linefish quotas causing a stir

Marine and coastal management revoked the rights of 10 commercial linefish quota-holders for providing misleading information when they applied for quotas reserved for traditional fishers. The group included the police officer, a public official, a navy official and a man who recently emigrated to New Zealand.

A police officer stationed at Table Bay Harbour in Cape Town has lashed out at marine and coastal management over its decision to revoke his linefish quota rights.

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Revoked linefish quotas causing a stir

02 December 2004

New biodiversity centre opened

Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk opened the new biodiversity centre at the Pretoria National Botanical gardens on Thursday.

South Africa had the richest variety of flora and fauna of any country of equal size in the world, Van Schalkwyk said in a media statement.

"We are home to nearly 10% of all plants and 7% of all reptiles, birds and mammals", he said.

The centre will house the South African National Biodiversity Institute which was brought into existence by the signing of the Biodiverity Act in May this year.

"As our country and the people have developed so too have the challenges confronting our resources," Van Schalkwyk said.

At the opening Van Schalkwyk said that R70m would be granted the institute to develop a "Greening of the Nation" project, which would build on the extensive experience of outreach projects since 1990.

"This greening project will aim to rehabilitate degraded land, develop indigenous gardens in schools and public spaces, combat air pollution by greening urban areas, prevent extinction of medicinal plants and trees, and will also embark on the large scale provincial indigenous tree planting," the minister said.
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New biodiversity centre opened

Weak El Nino hits SA

Pretoria - A high probability of poor rainfall and higher than normal temperatures were forecast for December, January and February by the SA Weather Service in Pretoria on Thursday.

This was the result of a weak El Nino weather system that has hit the country, meteorologist Lucky Ntsangwane told reporters.

He advised farmers to take precautions as rainfall patterns were unlikely to improve. Some municipalities may have to adapt their water management systems as dams were unlikely to be replenished.

There was a 70% probability of the El Nino system prevailing throughout summer into early next year, Ntsangwane said.

The central and western parts of the country were likely to be the hardest hit.
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Weak El Nino hits SA

National workshop aims to curb air pollution

Richards Bay, with its large primary industries and consequent high levels of pollution, has been chosen as the venue for a high-profile national workshop on air pollution and new air quality legislation.

The workshop starts on Wednesday and community organisations and activists from the country's pollution hotspots have descended on the port town, which has been the scene of two major gas leaks in the past two years.

The theme of the three-day workshop is "The Industrial Fence Line - Towards the Effective Implementation of the New Air Quality Legislation".

It is being hosted by the environmental non governmental organisation GroundWork, which will present its national report on the status of air quality in South Africa.

The overall purpose of the workshop, said GroundWork air quality Campaigner Ardiel Soeker, was to review civil society strategy on industrial air pollution in the light of the new air quality management legislation.

The release of the Air Quality Bill for public comment provided civil society with the opportunity to lobby the government to enact legislation that would hold corporations accountable for what they released into the air.

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National workshop aims to curb air pollution

Operation Neptune staff call it a day

The anti-poaching police unit Operation Neptune has withdrawn from the southern Cape Coast, leaving a major gap in the authorities' fight against skyrocketing perlemoen poaching.

After conflicting reports by the police and Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) last week about whether Operation Neptune would remain operational during the crucial summer months until Operation Trident could be implemented, Operation Neptune staff at Gansbaai held a farewell braai on Monday and their offices are now empty.

In Hermanus, Neptune's control room has closed and in Kleinmond there have been no Neptune officers at work since the end of October.

It is understood that MCM had drawn up emergency plans to fill the hiatus left by Neptune to try to keep a lid on poaching until Operation Trident is implemented.

The emergency plans include bringing in the SA Navy to the Overstrand area and deploying MCM's new patrol vessel, the Lilian Ngoyi. MCM is also to deploy extra staff and vehicles in the area for the summer and is to employ the services of a security company.

The police have not given reasons why they have terminated Operation Neptune at such a critical time.

Operation Neptune is funded by MCM, which said last week it had paid the police to run the operation until the end of March.

Police have said they will deploy an extra 70 police in the Overstrand area, but that these members will "perform the overall duty of crime prevention, of which (combating) abalone poaching is one task".

The MCM and Overstrand municipality, which run the anti-poaching Marines, were not available for comment.
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Operation Neptune staff call it a day

Mystery find of headless seals and penguin on beach

Two baby seals and a penguin, all three without heads, were found on Table View beach yesterday.

Because of the advanced stage of decomposition, it is not known whether they were killed intentionally by humans or had fallen prey to sharks.

SPCA inspector Kira Joshua said a veterinarian would examine the seal pups today to determine the cause of death.

Darden Lotz of bird conservation group Sanccob, who also examined the animals, said one of the seals had half of its skull missing, while the entire head of the other seal was missing.

"The penguin had the whole top part of its body missing, down to its flippers," she said.

Mike Meyer, of Marine and Coastal Management, said one of his staff found "nothing suspicious" about the carcasses.

"At this time of the year, it is not uncommon to find dead seal pups on the beach, because they have a 30% mortality rate," said Meyer. - Environment Writer.
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Fishing quota cheats sunk - Line fishermen are stripped of rights

Marine and Coastal Management authorities have revoked the rights of several commercial linefish quota holders, including a policeman, a senior navy official, a convicted perlemoen poacher and a man who had emigrated to New Zealand.

The department found that all had provided misleading information at the time they applied for quotas reserved by the department for traditional fishers.

Quotas are given when people can prove that they earn their income, or a substantial part of their income, from fishing.

The revocation of rights follows a new hardline approach by Marine and Coastal Management.

It told the Cape Argus: "The department will not tolerate a situation in which persons abuse the system by presenting misleading information or lying under oath in quota applications."

Senior officials said its verification unit was working with independent auditing firms to scrutinise applications sent in by prospective fishing quota holders and existing holders who wanted to retain their quotas.

They said they had also investigated calls made on the department's anonymous tip-off lines.

Shaheen Moolla, chief director of fisheries and coastal management for the Department of Environmental Affairs, said: "In the past almost no one was fined or prosecuted for misuse of the system, overfishing or blatantly lying under oath when submitting the quota application forms.

"What one has to realise is that our fisheries are under siege, and we are determined to maintain the integrity of the process and enforce the law."

In past months the department has issued 10 linefish quota holders with Section 28 notices revoking the lucrative permits that allow traditional fishers, or people who have a long association with fishing, to go out to sea and fish.

Section 28 of the Marine Living Resources Act of 1998 gives the ministry the right to revoke linefish quotas.

Source: Cape Argus
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Fishing quota cheats sunk - Line fishermen are stripped of rights