31 May 2005

Tips for scuba divers on environmental awareness

Keeping the Earth's treasures pristine for future generations to experience is a challenge, so before doing your next dive, read through these important tips.

  • Dive carefully in fragile aquatic ecosystems such as coral reefs. Many aquatic organisms are fragile that are harmed by the bump of a tank, knee or camera, a swipe of a fin or even the touch of a hand. By being careful you can prevent devastating and long-lasting damage to magnificent dive sites.

  • Be aware of your body and equipment placement when diving. Keep your gauges and alternate air source secured so they don't drag over the reef or bottom. Control your buoyancy, taking care not to touch fragile organisms with your body or equipment.

  • Keep your dive skills sharp with continuing education. Before heading to the reefs, seek bottom time with a certified professional in a pool or other environment that won't be damaged. Or refresh your skills and knowledge with a PADI Scuba Review, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course or Project AWARE Specialty course.

  • Consider how your interactions effect aquatic life. Resist the temptation to touch, handle, feed and even hitch rides on certain aquatic life. Your actions may cause stress to the animal, interrupt feeding and mating behavior or provoke aggressive behavior in normally nonaggressive species.

  • Understand and respect underwater life. Using them as toys or food for other animals can leave a trail of destruction, disrupt local ecosystems and rob other divers of experiencing these creatures. Consider enrolling in a Project AWARE Underwater Naturalist Specialty course to understand sustainable interactions.

  • Resist the urge to collect souvenirs. Dive sites can be depleted of their resources and beauty in a short time. If you want to return from dives with souvenirs, consider underwater photography.

  • If you hunt and/or gather game, obey all fish and game laws. Local laws are designed to ensure the reproduction and survival of these animals. As an underwater hunter, understand your effect on the environment and respect the rights of other divers in the area who are not hunting.

  • Report environmental disturbances or destruction of your dive sites. As a diver, you are in a unique position to monitor the health of local waterways. Report these observations to responsible authorities in your country.

  • Be a role model for other divers in diving and nondiving interaction with the environment. As a diver, you see the underwater results of carelessness and neglect.

  • Set a good example in your own interactions and other divers and nondivers will follow suit.

  • Get involved in local environmental activities and issues. You affect your corner of the planet. There are plenty of opportunities to show your support of a clean aquatic environment, including participating in local beach and underwater cleanups, attending public hearings that impact local water resources and supporting environmental legislative issues.

    Source: www.projectaware.org
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    Tips for scuba divers on environmental awareness

  • Black rhino gets new lease on life in KwaZulu Natal

    A second block of land to give the black rhino more space to range in has been chosen in KwaZulu-Natal, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife said on Monday.

    The Zululand Rhino Reserve was approved as the second such site by Ezemvelo's board on Friday.

    It said the 17 000ha area in northern KwaZulu-Natal consisted of 12 adjoining properties which had dropped their fences to create a haven for a significant black rhino population.

    A founder population of between 17 and 20 black rhino from the province's wildlife reserves would be released into the block later this year.

    Ezemvelo said the aim of the black rhino range expansion project was to increase the numbers of black rhino by increasing the land available for their conservation, thereby reducing pressure on existing reserves and providing new territory in which they could breed quickly.

    This was done by identifying large pieces of land with an ecological carrying capacity of 50 or more black rhino on which a founder population could be released. Neighbouring landowners usually had to remove internal fences, thus consolidating smaller pieces of land into more ecologically viable blocks and benefiting many species besides black rhino.

    World Wildlife Fund project leader Dr Jacques Flamand said the success of the first release of 15 black rhino in 2004 at Mun-ya-Wana Game Reserve had given project leaders much confidence.

    "Those animals have settled extremely well into their new home. There have been no losses through fights or accidents and matings have been observed so we're looking forward to the prospect of lots of calves," he said in a statement.

    Initially, the focus of the project is on finding suitable sites within KwaZulu-Natal. Once these have been saturated, the project will look at the other provinces.

    Black rhino became critically endangered after a poaching wave in the 1970s and 1980s wiped out 96 percent of Africa's wild black rhino population in 20 years.

    Ezemvelo said that at the lowest point, there were just 2 500 black rhino left. There were now about 3 600 of them.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Black rhino gets new lease on life in KwaZulu Natal

    30 May 2005

    Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Protea Banks

    Protea Banks is rated as one of the world's best shark diving spots. All dives are boat dives. Divers are taken to the reefs in semi rigid boats that are launched directly from the beach and through the surf.

    The launches have been likened to white water rafting in wet suits. All dives are drift dives and are lead by local dive masters who know the reef intimately.

    Visibility varies from 5 to 40 meters, and the water temperature in summer is 24+ degrees C and in winter not colder than 19 degrees C.

    The depths vary between 30 and 40 meters and one must be an experienced diver for these often 3 knot mid-water drift dives. This is adventure diving at it's best but for experienced divers only.

    Species encountered on the reef include:
    Bull (Zambezi), Tiger, Hammerhead, Thresher, Copper, Dusky, Ragged Tooth, Black Tip, and even the odd Mako shark.

    There is also a variety of reef fish, ribbon tail skates, moray eels, spotted eagle rays, manta rays and large schools of pelagic fish. Depending on the season one can also see dolphins and whales.

    Ragged Tooth Sharks (grey nurse or sand tigers) come to Protea Banks in Kwazulu-Natal in spring (August/September) as part of their breeding ritual. Placid and slow moving, the "Raggies" accept the divers without fuss. November brings the game fish and they are followed by the Zambezi (bull) Sharks, classed as a dangerous species.

    Hammerheads do not follow any seasonal pattern. They are shy and keep their distance. Tiger sharks are a often seen in summer but they tend to keep their distance. The sardine run in June/July brings the copper sharks. They scan the surface for the sardine shoals. Quick but shy, they are the smallest of the 7 species of shark commonly found in this area.

    With its rare pink soft coral, this area hosts many reef fish, including potato bass and many pelagic fish like tuna and yellow tails. There are also two cave areas called "hole in the wall" and "hole in the floor" attracting Ragged Tooth sharks in large numbers during mating season in the winter. As spring goes into summer, large shoals of scalloped hammerheads and now and then a Great White is seen on inside ledge. Best time: June to November

    This is definitely the place to go if you want to see Zambezi (Bull) sharks. One expect them from November, reaching its peak in March, and remaining in their numbers until May, while one should not forget that April and May are the best time to spot the tiger sharks. The scalloped hammerheads often occur like a "blanket" on top of the divers. Drop-offs close to sandy areas are often frequented by single and schools of hammerheads.

    Summer is also the time for game fish when schools of Yellowtail, Kingfish, Pike and Tunny are often encountered. March and April are good months for manta rays - Huge ones too! Be prepared to visit the Kingfish Gully for a spectacular treat of a large kingfish concentration. The Sand Shark Gully is also the best "gathering" place for various species of sharks.

    Source: Scuba diving in South Africa
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    Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Protea Banks

    The World’s first all-glass undersea restaurant located in the Maldives

    15 April marked the day that the first ever all-glass undersea restaurant in the world opened its doors for business at the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa.

    Ithaa (pronounced eet-ha, means 'pearl' in the language of the Maldives) will sit five meters below the waves of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by a vibrant coral reef and encased in clear acrylic offering diners 270-degrees of panoramic underwater views.

    "We have used aquarium technology to put diners face-to-face with the stunning underwater environment of the Maldives", says Carsten Schieck, General Manager of Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. "Our guests always comment on being blown away by the colour, clarity, and beauty of the underwater world in the Maldives, so it seemed the perfect idea to build a restaurant where diners can experience fine cuisine and take time to enjoy the views – without ever getting their feet wet."

    Created by MJ Murphy Ltd, a design consultancy based in New Zealand, Ithaa's distinctive feature is the use of curved transparent acrylic walls and roof, similar to those used in aquarium attractions. "The fact that the entire restaurant except for the floor is made of clear acrylic makes this unique in the world," continues Schieck, "We are currently planting a coral garden on the reef to add to the spectacular views of the rays, sharks and many colourful fish that live around the reef near the restaurant."

    The five-metre by nine-metre transparent arch, which spans the entire room, seats 14 people and provides a feeling of being completely at one with the underwater world while submerged beneath the surface of the ocean. Set with the resort's renowned house reef one side, and a clear lagoon on the other, diners enjoy their meal within Ithaa's translucent shell as the underwater drama unfolds on all sides.

    Naturally the food will be as spectacular as the underwater setting, explains Schieck, "In such a unique restaurant we wanted to create a distinctive cuisine, which is why we've decided to offer 'contemporary Maldivian cuisine' as a theme. We take local spices and traditional flavours and give them a western twist to create a fusion cuisine that you could find in the best restaurants in London or New York. Nobody else has done this before and we’re very excited about it."

    While the cuisine is dedicated to the fine balance of western food items with a Maldivian flavour, the wine concept is equally exciting; offering diners the perfect opportunity to discover the wines of the prestigious Champagne house Louis Roederer.

    Ithaa is reached by a wooden walkway from the nearby over-water Sunset Grill Restaurant. Diners begin their meal with drinks on a specially constructed deck over the ocean and then descend to the restaurant via a spiral staircase where the à la carte menu is served. Seating only 14 people, Ithaa offers one of the most intimate and exclusive dining experiences in the world.

    This innovative restaurant is the first of its kind in the world, and is part of a US $25 million re-build of Rangalifinolhu Island, one of the twin islands that make up Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. This re-build includes the construction of 79 of the most luxurious Beach Villas in the country as well as the Spa Village, a self-contained, over-water 'resort-within-a-resort' consisting of a spa, restaurant and 21 villas.

    Source: www.hospitalitynet.org
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    The World’s first all-glass undersea restaurant located in the Maldives

    Tons of perlemoen found on farm

    Three men will appear in the Tulbagh magistrate's court on Monday on charges of illegal possession of perlemoen (abalone) worth an estimated R2.5 million, Western Cape police said.

    Police, acting on a tip-off, arrested the men, aged between 26 and 30, in a raid on Friday afternoon on a farm in Tulbagh's Saron area, Inspector Bernadine Steyn said on Sunday.

    About three-and-a-half tons of shucked perlemoen as well as equipment used to process the mollusc were found on the scene.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Tons of perlemoen found on farm

    Fishermen and trade unionists chain themselves up in protest

    About 20 leaders of local fishing communities and unionists defied the cold and wet weather by chaining themselves to the gates of parliament last night to protest against the government finalising a long-term fishing policy.

    They said that they planned to remain chained to the gate until 6am today.

    "We are stepping up our protest campaign towards getting (Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk) to agree to a moratorium on the policy up until the department reaches agreement as to how to engage with (the stakeholders)," said Food and Allied Workers' Union Regional Secretary Peter Visser.

    He said this protest followed news that Van Schalkwyk had taken the policy to the cabinet to get it approved on May 24 or 25, despite the second Nedlac-mandated meeting with the unions having been set for June 2.

    Cosatu provincial Secretary Tony Ehrenreich said they would call for the resignation of Van Schalkwyk for disregarding "the ANC pledge of a contract with the people" as well as agreements which laid down that regional summits had to be held.

    Source: www.themercury.co.za
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    Fishermen and trade unionists chain themselves up in protest

    Poison kills endangered blue cranes

    Three blue cranes have died from poisoning near Port Elizabeth, the department of environmental affairs said on Friday.

    The blue crane, South Africa's national bird, is an endangered species and has a population of less than 25 000.

    "We suspect that it was poison used for chicory or insects. We have done a post mortem on the birds and the content of their stomachs have been sent to Onderstepoort for analysis," said department spokesperson Jaap Pienaar.

    Two other cranes who survived the poisoning are in a stable condition. Five waterbirds were also killed by the same poison.

    A flock of about 45 birds was suspected to be in the Nanagaga area where the birds died, and farmers have been asked to be on the look out for sick birds.

    A farmer has come forward admitting that the birds may have been poisoned in his chicory field, which he sprayed earlier this week.

    "We have established that is an accidental poisoning. What we want farmers to do is to have another employee patrolling the fields and chasing away birds until the plant have absorbed the poison," Endangered Wildlife Trust spokesperson Tim Snow said.

    The numbers of blue cranes were being rapidly reduced by poisoning, Snow said.

    However, department spokesperson Pienaar said: "This is a isolated case. We very rarely, if ever, find poisoned blue crane in the Eastern Cape."

    Source: www.news24.com
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    Poison kills endangered blue cranes

    CapeNature to close Gamkasberg and Swartberg 4x4 trails

    Cash-strapped CapeNature will close its two 4x4 vehicle trails in the Swartberg and the Gamkasberg to cut costs, but will not to close any of its nature reserves.

    David Daitz, CEO of CapeNature, said the board had considered closing some reserves to save money, but had decided that even those that were not profitable were making a contribution towards covering the organisation's overheads.

    "We have a cash crunch and it's going to be a very difficult year for CapeNature, but we will survive," Daitz said.

    This year's budget cut back heavily on transport and marketing.

    In 2000, CapeNature had been transformed into a board, which allowed it to raise funds and to enter into public-private financial partnerships, Daitz said. It had aimed to raise R50 million over five years, R15m of which was to come from donor funds, R15m from public-private partnerships and R20m from the government.

    CapeNature had raised R35m in donor funding, but this had created unforeseen financial problems.

    "It was all project money and donors don't want to give money to the management costs of the project, which is 15% of any project value. They say the organisation must put that money in," Daitz said.

    The donor funding from Cape Action Plan for the Environment (CAPE) went from the Global Environment Facility through the Wold Bank, which had a policy that recipients could not use bank money to pay taxes. That meant that for every rand spent and claimed back by drawing on the CAPE funding, CapeNature would be given only 83c.

    "That means if we draw on the CAPE funding as planned, we would have to find R1m to cover the shortfall. We only realised in the past year that raising donor funding can get you into more financial trouble," he said.

    Another problem had been with the public-private partnerships, where it was envisaged that private companies would develop tourist facilities in nature reserves and pay rental to CapeNature in return.

    But CapeNature had not managed to sign a single lease in five years.

    One of the reasons, Daitz said, was that private enterprise was scared off by the huge bureaucracy they had to deal with. Another was that they had to shoulder all the financial risk.

    "They were not interested in putting in infrastructure like roads and sewerage. It was too big a risk, but we had no money to pay for the infrastructure ourselves. Also, although we've got stunning reserves, we said development would be limited to areas which had already been disturbed, say an old storehouse or labourers' houses. But those places are generally not well suited to tourism," Daitz said.

    He said CapeNature would investigate using poverty relief money to build infrastructure in its reserves, which would attract investors, as the financial risk would be reduced.

    CapeNature is exploring the option of creating a second Whale Trail along the eastern section of De Hoop Nature Reserve.

    The more luxurious trail will be fully catered and guided, and cost R1 000 to R1 500 a person a night, according to the CapeNature website.

    The original Whale Trail offers overnight huts with only basic facilities.

    Nazeem Jamie, programme manager for the new trail, is accepting applications from architects interested in developing four small lodges along the trail. Planning will begin this week, and should be finalised by late this year or early next year.

    One lodge will cater for staff, and the other three for guests. Guest lodges will have beds with en-suite bathrooms, and guests will share kitchen, dining and lounge facilities. Each lodge will cost an estimated R1.4m to build.

    All facilities will be designed to minimise the impact on the environment and to blend in with the landscape.

    Source: www.capetimes.co.za
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    CapeNature to close Gamkasberg and Swartberg 4x4 trails

    Leaked G8 document exposes lack of commitment to tackling climate change

    The environmental group Friends of the Earth has criticised a leaked draft statement for the upcoming G8 summit for failing to set specific targets or timetables to reduce greenhouse gases from the highly industrialised countries.

    "The alarm bells on climate change are ringing, but the world's richest nations aren't listening," Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth International's climate campaigner, said in a statement Friday.

    The British government, which is hosting the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, from July 6-8, played down the significance of the 14-page document, posted on the Internet Wednesday by a British environmentalist.

    A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said the document was an old draft.

    "No conclusions should be drawn prior to the summit," she told AFP.

    The document states that "the world's developed economies have a responsibility" to tackle climate change.

    "The G8 therefore pledge to take action to promote a fundamental... change in the way we produce and use energy," the leaked document read.

    Friends of the Earth charged that the statement lacked "specific targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse gases from G8 nations" and failed to recognise the "major impact that G8 countries have had" on climate change.

    "Fine words are not enough," Pearce said, adding that "G8 countries represent just 13 percent of the world's population, but account for 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions."

    The group demanded that the G8 countries - Britain, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia - agree "for specific, substantial and timetabled cuts in their domestic emissions of greenhouse gasses."

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Leaked G8 document exposes lack of commitment to tackling climate change

    27 May 2005

    Sardine run could be building off Transkei

    It looks as if the annual sardine run could be taking shape as there is quite a lot of activity along the Transkei coast, particularly in the Waterfall Bluff, Port St Johns and Mazeppa areas.

    There was some hope among the local fraternity as the shark nets were lifted in the Port Edward area earlier this week.

    This was done purely as a precautionary measure by the Sharks Board because there was some scattered sardine activity in the Grosvenor and Waterfall Bluff areas.

    On further investigation, some of the activity was found to be big shoals of cigar scads. There are still no confirmed sightings close to shore.

    The winter fish have settled in quite well and most of the well-known angling spots are producing shad and garrick, although the latter have tapered off a bit.

    The Umkomaas stretch is also producing some quality shad, grunter and some shoal-size kob at night. The odd snapper salmon is also being caught in the river mouth area.

    Anglers fishing from the Sandspit at Port Shepstone are still catching garrick and shad during the day and the odd kob at night, but the numbers seem to be dwindling.

    The same can be said for the Port Edward area as Terry Nel of Tacklenet reports that, although shad are plentiful, the garrick have become a little scarce.

    Anglers fishing from Durban's South Pier this week got stuck into some kingfish. These fish were all being caught on small plastic squids and a number of these fish were over 6kg.

    Grunter are slowly starting to come on the bite along the Umgeni stretch and anglers there have caught a couple around the 3kg mark during the week.

    Skiboat fishing off Durban and surrounding areas has been quite good recently with snoek being the main target. These fish have made a welcome return to almost our entire coastline, but the main concentration has been along the Umgeni stretch where boats are having a ball with these fish, weighing up to 8kg.

    There are also some big tunny coming out in the vicinity of the Barge at Umhlanga. Some of them have weighed 40kg, but sharks are joining in and having a free meal if one does not get the fish out in a hurry.

    There seems to be some confusion on bottom fish and bag limits. The new fishing regulations are now firmly in place and you have to adhere to them.

    Fishing ski anglers got stuck into the snoek over the past weekend, particularly in the La Mercy area, which is traditionally active at this time of the year, but until now has been very poor with virtually no couta being reported.

    Most anglers had four or five snoek each and the average size was around 4kg.

    On the lower South Coast the only worthwhile catch on Sunday was a sailfish of 29kg.

    Source: www.themercury.co.za
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    Sardine run could be building off Transkei

    PADI announces eLearning

    Does a busy schedule keep you from furthering your dive education? We have the solution: the newest system of dive training, PADI eLearning online training.

    With PADI eLearning, you can sign-up and complete the knowledge-based dive training from the convenience of your home, on the road, or in your office, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    With PADI eLearning online training, time commitments and busy schedules won't keep you from furthering your dive training and enjoying the underwater world.

    For more information, contact your local PADI Dive Center or Resort or visit the eLearning section of www.padi.com and get started on your next adventure today - online.

    Source: www.sportdiver.com
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    PADI announces eLearning

    Shark attack will not keep me away says surfer

    A 32-year-old British tourist is recovering in his hotel, with 100 stitches and major cuts to his body, after narrowly escaping death in an attack by what is believed to have been a ragged-tooth shark.

    Jay Catherall, of Worcester, England, and two other surfers were riding the waves at Whacky Point in Kei Mouth - a spot famous for its beach breaks - when the attack took place on Wednesday.

    Catherall remained conscious throughout and was able to give a vivid description of his first encounter with a shark, although it had taken place "in a flash".

    "I felt something pulling me backwards. I thought it was just the current. But after the second pull I realised it was something in the water," Catherall said from his Morgan Bay holiday accommodation.

    After the second "pull", Catherall said, the shark disappeared and he managed to float with his surfboard to the shore.

    It was only then that he realised he had been bitten - twice. He had not felt "a thing", he said.

    "It wasn't a violent attack. I did not feel any of the biting. It was just a sensation. I remember repeatedly beating the shark on the nose," he said.

    Chris Bodgers, of Morgan Bay, one of the men surfing with Catherall at the time, said: "I must admit that we broke a few of the rules when entering the water."

    He explained that, although the water was clear, there was a sardine run as well as a shad run. Also, a school of dolphins was spotted and gannets were diving into the sea.

    "The sea was busy - it was like an aquarium. It was dodgy," Bodgers said.

    "We probably shouldn't have entered the water, but all was clear and we were just hoping to catch a few waves."

    Bodgers, who had been "riding the wave of my life", did not see the attack.

    District surgeon Nico Veltman spent three hours stitching the gaping wounds to Catherall's buttocks, upper left leg and right arm.

    Catherall, who visits the area from England every winter with his wife Nicky, was adamant the incident wouldn't put him off the sport.

    "I'm so lucky. It was a close call, but I'll be heading for the surf as soon as I heal."

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Shark attack will not keep me away says surfer

    South African Navy to help adult fur seal

    A naval strike craft, the SAS Makhanda, will transport an adult fur seal from Durban on Friday to Cape Recife where she will be freed to return to her home in Marion Island in the Indian ocean.

    Navy spokesperson Manny Gounden said the fur seal, known as Mission, apparently arrived in Durban last Saturday and stayed in the harbour for the weekend.

    "He is almost 3000 kilometres from his home at Marion Island and most probably found himself in trouble after chasing the early sardines."

    Gounden said Mission appeared to have no injuries and only needed a rest before returning home. The seal was being accommodated at the Sea World rehabilitation facility in Durban.

    "The seal will be crated and transported in a sealed transportable box."

    The SAS Makhanda was on its way home to Simonstown in the Western Cape after completing an exercise with the French navy when it received a request for assistance from Sea World.

    Source: www.news24.com
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    South African Navy to help adult fur seal

    Bad weather prevents hi-tech attempt to see wreck and crew

    Stormy seas prevented new technology from being used on Thursday to photograph the bodies of 14 fishermen who disappeared into a watery grave on May 8 on the Sardinia Bay coast.

    Trawler captain Paul Landers and a crewman, Johan Ehlers, survived.

    Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe announced on Tuesday that the exact location had been pinpointed of the Lindsay, a trawler that sank after colliding with a giant carrier, the Ouro do Brasil.

    The trawler had been located by the South African hydrographic survey ship, the SAS Protea.

    Apparently the Lindsay is lying about nine nautical miles from Sardinia Bay at a depth of 105m.

    Radebe's spokesperson, Collen Msibi, said a team from the South African Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT) arrived in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday with the intention of taking underwater pictures of the Lindsay.

    The IMT intends sending a remote-controlled vessel down to the seabed that will then find its way to the wreckage to take photographs.

    Investigator has 99% of information he needs
    According to Msibi, rough seas kept the operation from going ahead on Thursday and further attempts would be made on Friday.

    Captain Nigel Campbell, senior marine inspector with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) and who is heading the investigation after the tragedy, said on Thursday he already had collected 99% of the information he needed.

    Campbell said: "I'm only waiting for one more piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and thereafter events of that evening will start forming a picture."

    He confirmed that no set date could be provided for the finalisation of the investigation.

    According to navy spokesperson Commander Brian Stockton, they had not yet been approached to assist with the recovery of the fishermen's bodies, but would consider doing so if asked to help.

    Cindy Preller reports that a resident commercial diver, Johan Liebenberg, believes the technology is available to reach the bodies and that underwater robots can be hired to recover the entire ship. But, the technology is very expensive.

    Meanwhile Die Burger has learned on good authority that the depth at which the Lindsay is lying makes it virtually impossible to recover the bodies.

    Hoping to be able to bury them
    On Thursday morning, Ian Grey, commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Port Elizabeth, said there was always a possibility that the victims' bodies could be recovered.

    Grey confirmed that pictures of the wreck would be invaluable in helping to determine any dangers that might be encountered in the recovery process.

    Wilna Josephs, who lost her father, George, her brother, Randall, and uncle, Henry Prinsloo, said all the families were hoping the pictures would bring good news.

    "Last week, we were going to throw wreaths on the water, but now we are waiting in hope that we will still be able to bury them."

    Source: www.news24.com
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    Bad weather prevents hi-tech attempt to see wreck and crew

    Deep sea weapon against superbug

    A bacterium found 300 metres below sea could be used to fight the superbug MRSA, scientists believe.

    UK experts from the Universities of Kent and Newcastle found a new species of a common bacterium that lives in the sea beds of Japan can kill MRSA.

    Actinomycete bacteria are known for their antibiotic properties. The new species, verrucosispora maris, produces a unique antibiotic, abyssomicin C.

    The team showed their work at a Natural Environment Research Council meeting.

    Hidden depths
    The scientists studied how hundreds of thousands of different microbes and bacteria can live in the same place on the ocean floor - often in conflict with one another.

    Dr Phil Williamson, from NERC, said: "They have developed quite sophisticated systems of trying to kill off their rivals, and by looking at the different compounds they produce, the scientists have identified new bacteria which could provide the next generation of antibiotics.

    "The ones from the bottom of the sea have not come into contact with disease-forming bacteria [on land] which therefore have not got any resistance to them."

    But he said more research would be needed.

    Researcher Professor Alan Bull, from the University of Kent, said: "The most exciting discovery has been a chemically-unique antibiotic, abyssomicin C, which has been found in an actinomycete recovered from the marine environment and has properties which could be used to inhibit MRSA."

    Similarly, Scottish researchers from the company AquaPharm Bio-Discovery have found several types of bacteria which, together, act as a powerful natural antibiotic against MRSA.

    However, they are keeping the identity of the MRSA-killing bacteria a secret, and taken out patents on how they can be cultivated and used.

    US scientists recently reported that it might be possible to make cancer drugs from a microbe that lives within deep water sea squirts.

    The number of cases of MRSA has been rising sharply - from 2,422 in 1997 in England and Wales to 7,684 in 2003/4 in England alone.

    But more recently, cases have gone down. The government says they are now the lowest English NHS hospitals have seen since mandatory records began in 2001.

    But it is still a significant problem and a number of strategies are being looked at to combat the problem.

    One of the reasons behind their evolution into "superbugs" is the overuse of antibiotics, both in human and veterinary medicine.

    Source: news.bbc.co.uk
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    Deep sea weapon against superbug

    WWF-SA urges efforts to ease CapeNature cash crisis

    South Africa needs to find ways to ensure far-reaching cooperation and innovation so that scarce resources are used to full effect for the long term benefit of the environment.

    The fact that formal conservation agencies are in crisis should concern all South Africans as we are completely dependent on the environment for our well-being and, to a large extent, economic growth.

    That's the reaction of Rob Little, Conservation Director of the South African arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature in South Africa (WWF-SA), following media reports on the financial plight of CapeNature last week.

    Little says WWF-SA has been aware of CapeNature's financial difficulties for some time and has already met with the conservation agency to discuss ways of helping ease the crisis.

    "WWF-SA has partnerships with CapeNature in a number of areas, including capacity building, conservation education, land stewardship and the establishment of a conservation area in the Succulent Karoo. We've discussed ways to ensure that our combined resources are put to their best use."

    Media reports last week suggested that Cape Nature needs around R20-million more than its current allocation to cover its costs, compared to around R12-million a year it generates from tourism.

    CapeNature has indicated that it may have to temporarily close some of its less popular reserves to contain its costs.

    Little says: "Partnerships have always been a crucial aspect of our work and WWF-SA regards CapeNature as too important a local player to ignore its plight. The problems facing CapeNature aren't entirely unique and we believe our relationships with government, national and local, must encourage support for environmental conservation as the basis of sustainable and equitable development.

    "We appreciate the predicament of CapeNature in its efforts to make our natural heritage accessible to all. This is an essential part of ensuring that all South Africans fully value our natural heritage and all it has to offer.

    "Increasing prices is not the solution. Reducing costs is also only part of this difficult process. Much more work has to be done to find innovative and sustainable funding solutions for all our formally protected areas to ensure their long-term accessibility for all. This is a process that needs to be led by government with input from all interested parties."

    Source: WWF-SA
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    WWF-SA urges efforts to ease CapeNature cash crisis

    26 May 2005

    British surfer attacked by shark in Eastern Cape

    A surfer received a hundred stitches after being attacked by a shark at the mouth of the Kei River, in the Eastern Cape, on Wednesday.

    National Sea Rescue Institute spokesperson Craig Lambinon said Jay Catarall, 32, was surfing with two other people when the shark bit him on his buttocks and the back of both legs.

    Initial reports suggested that he was attacked by a ragged tooth shark.

    Sharks Board officials were at the scene trying to determine what type of shark it was.

    Lambinon said Catarall, who was from the United Kingdom, was back at his hotel as he preferred not to stay in hospital.

    He said that to his knowledge attacks were not common in the area.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    British surfer attacked by shark in Eastern Cape

    Probe will determine if bodies of sunken fishing trawler crew can be reached

    The South African Navy has located the position of the ill-fated fishing trawler, the Lindsay, which sank off the eastern Cape coast near Port Elizabeth with the loss of 14 lives after a collision with a container ship more than two weeks ago.

    A team led by the Institute for Maritime Technology in Simon's Town is now preparing to start operations to send a remote-operated vehicle to the ocean floor site to photograph the wreck of the trawler.

    The operation will be launched from here but, according to authorities, it will be totally dependent on the weather when the mission actually begins because it is "highly sensitive" and demands a calm sea. However, it could be as early as Friday.

    The possibility of retrieving the victims' bodies still trapped in the wreckage would be investigated in accordance with their families' wishes, the transport department said.

    The news has been welcomed by a spokesperson for the bereaved families in Mossel Bay, where most crew members who perished in the disaster lived, and where the Lindsay, owned by Viking Inshore Fishing, was based.

    Since the shipping tragedy, the families have pleaded with authorities to make an attempt to recover the bodies of their loved ones which may still be trapped in the wreckage, lying at a depth of about 150m.

    After receiving official notification from Mossel Bay mayor Michael Carelse that the Lindsay had been found, family spokesperson Pastor Leon Prinsloo spent Tuesday night conveying the news to the crew members' widows and families.

    The position of the Lindsay, which was struck by a refrigerated container ship, the Ouro do Brasil, 12km off Sardinia Bay on May 8, was located by the South African Navy's SAS Protea, according to a statement issued by Transport Minister Jeff Radebe's office.

    Families of the victims had appealed to the transport department to attempt to locate the vessel so that the bodies of their loved ones still trapped inside the wreck could be retrieved.

    Prinsloo said the families had last week conveyed their wishes through the Mossel Bay mayor to Radebe that "they wanted, if possible, to bring the bodies home".

    "We are very pleased with the news that they found the vessel," said Prinsloo. "We want the bodies to bury. This is our culture. Even if they're decomposed, it doesn't matter.

    "This has been a very tense time for all the families. They've been going through a tough time knowing the bodies of their loved ones are still in the water."

    Prinsloo said a meeting had been held with the victims' families last week where they had unanimously given their consent for the bodies to be recovered if it was at all possible.

    Prinsloo said that at the memorial service held in Mossel Bay just days after the disaster, which was attended by thousands, Carelse and Western Cape legislature speaker Shaun Byneveldt, among others, had told mourners they would do "all in their power" to help the families with their appeal to recover the bodies.

    Radebe expressed his appreciation to the SA Navy personnel of the SAS Protea for the "sterling work" they had performed in locating the Lindsay, as well as other navy personnel at Silvermine, the Institute for Maritime Technology, international firm Reson, De Beers Marine and the South African Maritime Safety Agency, for their assistance.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Probe will determine if bodies of sunken fishing trawler crew can be reached

    Southern Africa: Rising Indian Ocean temperatures will bring escalating drought

    A new study on climate change has warned of escalating drought in southern Africa, directly linked to the warming of the Indian Ocean.

    According to the US-based National Centre for Atmospheric Research [press release], since 1950 the Indian Ocean has warmed more than one degree Celsius; "well beyond the range expected from natural processes", but consistent with projected increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Previous computer simulation models had omitted Indian Ocean warming and, as a result, it was difficult to assess the magnitude of the drying that had actually occurred in the southern African region.

    "When the [research] models did include Indian Ocean warming, southern Africa consistently dried out. The models also project that by 2049, monsoons across southern Africa could be 10-20 percent drier than the 1950-1999 average," the researchers noted.

    The world's most developed countries are the leading producers of greenhouse gases - the United States pumps out around 25 percent of the world's total output, while the G8 nations together are responsible for about half the quantity. By comparison, the entire African continent produces roughly five percent.

    "Any significant climatic change in Africa, whether it be drought conditions or floods, has serious ramifications mainly because of the vulnerability of populations," Bruce Howitt, professor of climatology at the University of Cape Town, told IRIN.

    "It must be said, however, that the jury is still out on whether southern Africa will see recurrent droughts in coming years, because there are various ongoing natural processes which may impact on future weather patterns," he added.

    Since 2001 consecutive dry spells in southern Africa have led to serious food shortages. The drought of 2002/03 resulted in a food deficit of 3.3 million mt, with an estimated 14.4 million people in need of assistance.

    Last year a report by the University of Michigan warned that the region should prepare itself for recurring drought, likely to strike at least twice every decade.

    Although that study noted the benefits of expanding regional early warning systems, which would allow governments and aid agencies to respond timeously to those in need, there were concerns that not enough was being done to improve food production, distribution and marketing.

    Source: www.allafrica.com
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    Southern Africa: Rising Indian Ocean temperatures will bring escalating drought

    South Africa joins global study on reptile numbers

    The prospect of spending the next fours years hunting for snakes, frogs, lizards, geckos, blind worms, terrapins and crocodiles might fill many people with horror - but University of Cape Town herpetologist Marius Burger can't wait to get started.

    "I consider myself very lucky," he says. "Really, there is beauty in things that most of us are fearful of ... and even people who are fearful still have some space in their hearts for (reptiles like) dwarf chameleons and tortoises."

    Burger, whose previous research has taken him all over Africa, will be doing the fieldwork for a new R2 million study, the Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment, that was formally launched at Kirstenbosch last week.

    The project is aimed at identifying reptile species threatened by extinction in th sub-continent, and the work involves gathering thousands of records of reptile sightings from all over South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

    It has been funded by the South African National Biodiversity Institute and will be co-ordinated by UCT's Avian Demography Unit, which has previously successfully placed the birds and frogs of the sub-continent into atlases.

    Kristal Maze, the institute's director of Biodiversity, Policy and Planning, said very little was known about the conservation status of reptiles, despite South Africa having an extremely rich reptile fauna.

    "Information is essential for identifying priorities for conservation actions, which are likely to include regulation of collection for the pet trade and minimising habitat loss." she said.

    Graham Alexander, a prominent reptile researcher at Wits University and editor of the African Journal of Herpetology, said the last time any attempt had been made to record the distribution of South Africa's reptiles in a co-ordinated way was 16 years ago.

    "Many new species have since been discovered and there is an extreme shortage of information on these and several other species."

    The project will be driven by experts from South African universities, museums, conservation agencies and the Herpetological Association of Africa (HAA), and the public is encouraged to send in digital pictures of any live or dead reptiles they come across - if they can photograph them safely! - with an accurate site identity.

    Pictures of good enough quality will become part of a "virtual museum collection" of photographic specimens, available for inspection on the project's website.

    Burger pointed out that southern Africa had some 526 reptile species, or about 600 including sub-species. More than 75% were endemic, meaning they occur naturally only here.

    Species include 14 land tortoises - one third of the world's 42 species - some 156 snakes ("and counting"), and at least 114 different kinds of geckos.

    Explaining that new reptile species were being discovered constantly, Burger said there were 323 lizard species in the region, the third highest richness in the world after Australia and Mexico.

    Holly Dublin, chairwoman of the World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission, said the project was part of a global investigation into the conservation status of reptiles.

    "It is important locally, but more so in that these things are feeding upwards into a much more important (international) decision- and policy-making environment," she said.

    Source: www.allafrica.com
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    South Africa joins global study on reptile numbers

    25 May 2005

    Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Aliwal Shoal

    Selected as one of the top ten dives sites of the world by the Diver Magazine, Aliwal Shoal offers almost anything a diver can wish for.

    All the diving is done from semi rigid boats fitted with twin 85 Yamaha motors. The RIBS are launched from the river mouth and through the surf for a twenty-minute ride to the reef.

    During the months of June through to November you are sure to see Ragged Tooth Sharks as they congregate on the Shoal to mate. It is not uncommon to find 15 to 50 of these ferocious looking but docile animals on a single dive.

    In summer you have every chance of seeing Tiger sharks and Hammerheads. Should you tire of the sharks, you can always dive on any of the wrecks or go hunting for the huge (and I mean huge) Brindle Bass. Other species (depending on the season) include Manta, Devil and other rays, schools of pelagic fish, whales, dolphins, and many, many more!

    Visibility varies from 5 to 40 meters, and the water temperature in summer is 24+ � C and in winter not colder than 19 � C. The depths vary between 6 to 18 meters with 30-meter sites for the suitably qualified. The dives are all done without cages and afford the unique opportunity to see the sharks in their natural environment!

    The top sites are:

    This is a spectacular hole in the reef and is home to many large stingrays, moray eels and ragged tooth sharks, beginning with a depth of 28m (94ft), and continuing the dive up to 10m (34ft).

    The Pinnacles
    Average depth is 10 - 15 m (34ft - 50ft). It is best dived when there is little or no surge or current. Many caves, gullies and overhangs can be explored on this reef, and there are large shoals of fish.

    Raggie Cave and Shark Alley
    Average depth is 16 m. Best known for housing groups of ragged tooth sharks in winter. Although they are not overly aggressive, they should never be approached too closely.

    North Sands
    With and average depth of 12m (40ft) and a maximum of 15m (50ft), this flat, sandy part of the reef provides the opportunity to see rays, skates and sand sharks of all sizes. In winter, groups of Raggies often congregate close to the large overhang on the southeast side.

    South Sands
    Like North Sands, this site is home to rays, skates, sand sharks and guitar sharks. Average depth is 15m (50ft) with a maximum of 18m (60ft).

    The Produce (1974)
    The wreck of the Produce, a Norwegian Bulk Molasses tanker, struck Aliwal Shoal on the NE Pinnacles in 1974, no lives were lost. She now rests in 30 metres of water (100ft) and makes an interesting wreck dive. Big game fish such as salmon, kingfish, brindle bass share the wreck with lionfish and many colourful tropical species.

    The Nebo (1884)
    The Nebo struck Aliwal Shoal in 1984 in fair weather and went down with its cargo of railway material. No lives were lost and she lies in 30m of water (100ft), still fairly intact. The wreck is home to an abundance of reef and pelagic fish.

    Source: Scuba diving in South Africa
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    Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Aliwal Shoal

    World's largest fish is shrinking

    The world's largest fish, the gentle and solitary whale shark, is getting smaller, an international conference heard this week.

    This has led to concerns that the future of this highly migratory fish may be threatened.

    Whale sharks live in tropical waters around the world and are sometimes spotted in protected waters at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

    Dr Mark Meekan and colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science studied continuous records from log books filled out by ecotourist operators operating at Ningaloo Reef.

    Meekan told the International Whale Shark Conference in Perth this week that the average size of the fish has declined, from just over 7 metres in 1995 to around 5.5 metres today.

    Researchers don't know exactly why the fish is shrinking. But they speculate that over-fishing in unprotected international waters, injuries caused by collisions with sea vessels and a drop in the average age of the fish could be reasons.

    "Any fish population that is undergoing unsustainable mortality usually shows a drop in average size of individual fish, and a drop in abundance. So what we're seeing at Ningaloo is particularly worrying, because these waters are protected," says Meekan.

    "If we're losing the adults in the population, leaving only juvenile whale sharks, then we'll have no population there to reproduce. That's a real concern."

    The whale shark is an elusive, slow growing, plankton-eating, oceanic fish.

    It only occasionally ventures to a handful of coastlines around the world, including those along India, the Seychelles, Kenya and Somalia.

    Because of this very little is known about them. Only one pregnant female has ever been found and she had a litter of 300 pups.

    Meekan says 'top order' animals such as large sharks are a good barometer of the ocean health.

    "They're like the canary in the coal mine, so we do need to pay attention to the signals they are giving us."

    Protecting the whale shark
    Conference delegates called for countries to try harder to protect the whale shark and its habitat.

    They called for a move away from harvesting the sharks to sustainable alternatives, like carefully managed ecotourism.

    "The evidence points to serious declines in the abundance of whale sharks in some parts of the world following even short periods of exloitation," the delegates say in a communiqué released at the end of the conference.

    Source: www.abc.net.au
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    World's largest fish is shrinking

    Shark cartilage no good for cancer

    Shark cartilage has been used by many for the treatment of a variety of illnesses including cancer. But a new study suggests that shark cartilage does not benefit people with cancer and actually may make some patients feel worse.

    In a study of patients with advanced breast or colorectal cancer, Mayo Clinic researchers found no improvement in overall survival rates or quality of life in those taking shark cartilage compared with those who took a placebo.

    The study appears in this month's issue of the journal Cancer.

    "There is no evidence to suggest a survival benefit from shark cartilage based on our data," Mayo researcher and cancer specialist Charles L. Loprinzi, MD concluded.

    In fact, some measures of quality of life went down, possibly as a result of side effects, they add.

    'Sharks Rarely Get Cancer'
    The researchers chose to study shark cartilage as a cancer treatment because of its popularity as an alternative therapy. "The basis for this popularity is the claim that sharks rarely get cancer because of the high proportion of cartilage in the shark's body," they write.

    In the study, Loprinzi and colleagues monitored 83 people with incurable advanced breast or colon cancer. They primarily looked at differences in survival time between patients in two groups: one group that received shark cartilage and another group that received an identical- appearing placebo product.

    In addition, the patients continued to receive conventional treatments such as chemotherapy. The researchers show that there was no difference in overall survival time between the groups.

    Patients taking shark cartilage had decreased quality-of-life scores and physical well-being compared to their baseline scores. The researchers also show that those taking the placebo had higher scores than baseline. This could reflect a result of side effects.

    They add that while they found no benefits associated with shark cartilage in its current form, it is possible that future observation of shark health and the unique properties of cartilage may "eventually lead to a form of a drug that will have a role in cancer therapy."

    They caution that the study ended sooner than planned. After one month, about half of the patients in both groups dropped out, and only 10% remained on the treatment for six months.

    Patients that did not tolerate the shark cartilage reported diarrhea, heartburn, a decrease in infection-fighting white cells, and bone pain. Other symptoms such as fatigue and rectal bleeding were reported in those taking the placebo.

    The researchers write that there is little enthusiasm for further study of shark cartilage in powdered form, considering that so many patients in this study dropped out or experienced a decline in quality of life.

    Source: SharkTrust
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    Shark cartilage no good for cancer

    Turtle species in Kenya on the verge of extinction

    With four "licensed" prawn trawlers operating within 1.5 nautical miles at the Malindi-Ungwana bay, dozens of long-liners operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone, and about 400 foreign licensed and unlicensed commercial fishing vessel and ring-netters, the future of the endangered turtle is doomed.

    Experts estimate the population of nesting turtles on Kenyan beaches to be only in their hundreds. Putting this in a terrestrial perspective, turtles are the marine equivalent of elephants in conservation terms.

    The trawling within five nautical miles and ring-netting, though globally condemned by conservationists and illegal in most countries, is being carried out in Kenya under questionable 'special licence' by Coast fisheries headquarters which fishermen claim is motivated by corruption rather than research as the Fisheries Department alleges, has taken a commercial rather than scientific dimension.

    Worse still, trawling has been going on for the last two years, without the mandatory Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), or any form of monitoring and supervision by the Kenya Marine Research Institute (KMFRI) as required by law.

    By last week, fisheries had only one officer in one of the four trawlers. The Director of Fisheries, Mrs Nancy Gitonga, was shocked to learn of this state of neglect by her officers at the Coast and promised to investigate the claims.

    Prawn trawlers record 80 per cent by-catch without the TEDs. The by-catch comprises mostly of juveniles, turtles, sharks and rays among others.

    The Mombasa office is exploiting some loopholes in the Fisheries Act to license the trawlers and ring-netters, although section 14 (1) of the Act under Fisheries Regulations 43 (1) (d) prohibits trawling within five nautical miles.

    Fishermen interviewed in Malindi recently blamed the hundreds of dead turtles washed offshore on prawn trawlers and long-liners. This is so because turtles retrieved from the nets alive are usually slaughtered and their products extracted for sale in illicit outlets.

    Turtle oil, meat, and eggs fetch a high price in the local market where they are highly valued for their medicinal and aphrodisiac properties.

    More than 7,000 fishermen who have derived their livelihood from the sea for centuries have found themselves getting more involved in turtle hunting as well to supplement their quickly dwindling catch caused by the uncontrolled commercial over-exploitation of fishery resources.

    This is despite the ban on trade in turtle products by the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species which has placed the world's seven species of turtle in Appendix I - at the same level as the African elephant.

    Kenya is a signatory to Cites, but the KWS and the Fisheries Department seems only keen to protect some species.

    Turtles are also threatened by the rapid development in the tourism industry on our beaches, leading to loss of nesting sites while security lights and noise pollution deters nesting females and disorientates hatchlings crawling to the sea.

    Similarly, the dumping of waste and beach pollution negatively affects nesting turtles on the beaches.

    Two species of turtle are known to nest in Kenyan beaches - the Greens and Hawksbills. There are 22 nesting beaches stretching from Funzi Island in the south to Kiunga in the north. The peak-nesting season for green and hawksbill turtles is March to June. However, five species of turtle are known to use the entire, highly-productive 600 kilometres of Kenya's coastline for feeding.

    Figures recorded last year in the Kiunga, Kipini, Ngomeni, Malindi and Watamu areas, show that there were about 20,000 successful hatchlings. But only one in every 1000 hatchlings grows to maturity. A turtle takes 20-30 years to mature and start breeding. And according to records, less than 200 of the hatchlings are expected to grow to the breeding age.

    In the same period, mortalities, mostly from incidental catch by commercial fishermen, double this figure. All the mortalities recorded were as a result of drowning, while the number of those hunted was far much higher and not recorded.

    The implication of this is that since we are "harvesting" more than the numbers growing to maturity, the species will surely be extinct in the near future.

    Unfortunately, very little is being done to stop this as Government departments and conservationists continue to focus on rhinos, elephants, and cheetahs, totally leaving out threatened marine life.

    Source: www.allafrica.com
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    Turtle species in Kenya on the verge of extinction

    Drakensberg residents braced for heavy snowfalls

    Drakensberg residents are bracing themselves for their first snowfalls as well as a long cold winter.

    Food and beverage manager Anton Massey, of the Sani Pass Hotel in the Drakensberg, said temperatures last night dropped to a chilly 3°C and on Tuesday morning the mercury registered 5°C, but it is expected to get colder.

    "A little snow fell on the mountaintop which can be seen from the hotel, but we are expecting heavier snowfalls this evening."

    Massey added that back-up generators have been checked, extra firewood stocked up on and extra blankets requested to cope with the cold.

    "Local residents have said we can expect a very long winter this year with heavy snowfalls."

    Heavy snowfalls are expected on Friday or Saturday as a cold front hits the province. The Drakensberg will reach a minimum of 4°C and a maximum of 16°C on Wednesday and Thursday with an expected cold front with heavy snowfalls for the weekend.

    Meanwhile, Durban residents are trying to stay on their feet on Tuesday and not get blown away by the strong south-westerly winds.

    A maximum temperature of 22°C is expected on Tuesday with a 60 percent chance of rain expected on Tuesday night.

    Wednesday will be partly cloudy and will reach a minimum of 14°C and a high of 23°C.

    Thursday will be partly cloudy becoming fine, reaching a minimum of 14°C and a maximum of 26°C.

    A spokesperson for Game at the Pavilion said a mad rush for electric blankets and heaters was expected on Tuesday and would continue in the winter months.

    He said customers generally monitor the seriousness of the cold weather before investing in a heater or electric blanket.

    "But we are definitely expecting an increase in sales," he said.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Drakensberg residents braced for heavy snowfalls

    24 May 2005

    Scubapro-Uwatec recalls computers

    Scubapro-Uwatec has issued a recall notice for two of its diving computers, the Smart Pro and Smart Com. A software fault can lead to potentially serious malfunction of the units.

    "A software programming error in these computers may cause the alert signals to stop working properly, and in some instances, the screen may freeze," states the company.

    "If this occurs, inaccurate information is displayed such as water depth, tank pressure, ascent rate, etc. Consumers should stop using these computers immediately and contact their nearest UWATEC Authorised Dealer for a free replacement."

    Owners in the UK should contact Scubapro-Uwatec, Vickers Business Centre, Priestly Road, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG24 9NP, tel. 01256 812636.

    Related links
    Scubapro-Uwatec website

    Source: www.divernet.com
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    Scubapro-Uwatec recalls computers

    Man-made reef will bring huge waves to Durban

    Durban is to build Africa's first multi-purpose man-made reef 150m off its shores to create giant waves. This will put the city among the trendsetters of international tourism.

    Similar features have injected new life into other surfing beaches, and almost overnight turned Carlifornia and western Australia's Gold Coast into major surfing destinations.

    Another reef has been proposed for the coast off Dubai.

    The R10-million construction will follow the R24-million development of the old Sea World Aquarium site at Wedge Beach, which will expand the beach to the size of two rugby fields. It is hoped that that will resuscitate beach soccer and volleyball at the beachfront.

    The old aquarium development will start next month. The reef is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

    But the reef's architects will first have to convince environmental groups that it will have only a minimal effect on marine life and that it will not promote sedimentation in any other part of the beachfront.

    The architects are Australian reef designer Angus Jackson, who designed the Narrow Neck surfing reef in Brisbane on the Gold Coast six years ago, and the eThekwini Municipality's coastal engineers.

    They will also have to show that the synthetic material that will be used to make the reef will promote and create a new home for marine life.

    Environmental groups will have their say on the idea when it undergoes an environmental impact assessment.

    Di Dold of the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa said that environmentalists would support the plan as long it did not affect marine life or cause an erosion of sand from the beach.

    Andrew Mather, the city's coastal engineer in the office of City Manager Mike Sutcliffe, said the principle of the proposed reef was to create the wave break in "a uniform and controlled manner".

    "This means that it will allow surfers to ride high waves for longer distances before they start breaking," he said.

    He said the reef would turn Durban's beachfront into a safe haven for surfers, snorkellers, and body and kite boarders, but would lead to motor boats and spearfishermen being banned to eliminate the risk of damage to the reef's structure.

    The reef and the development of the aquarium site will be the first modifications of the beachfront since the introduction of the paddling pools and the paving of the promenade in 1980.

    If the reef gets approval, a Durban company will start stitching bags of synthetic fabric, which will each be loaded with anything from three to 30 tons of sand.

    The giant sandbags will then be dumped into the ocean at least 150m from the shore in a line that is expected to stretch for more than 1km. The long heap, about 5m high is expected lie no more than 1m below the water level.

    The bulk of the funds for the almost R35-million development will be footed by the council. The private sector is expected to supply retail businesses and tourism ventures.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Man-made reef will bring huge waves to Durban

    Injured fishermen rescued by helicopter

    An Atlantis fisherman with a serious head injury has been airlifted off a fishing trawler in choppy seas off the coast of Hermanus.

    Christo Joubert was on his way back to Cape Town with the 56-foot trawler Beatrice Marine when he was apparently hit on his left temple by heavy fishing equipment.

    The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) called the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and Canadian Helicopter Corporation (CHC) rescue workers to evacuate Joubert.

    Rescue workers Phil Ress and Lizette Swanevelder and a crew of about 20 managed to get him into the helicopter.

    He was rushed to Milnerton MediClinic where he is in a serious but stable condition.

    "We anticipate a good outcome, depending on the results of a brain scan, which he will have soon," said Basil Bonner of the MediClinic.

    Sea conditions off the coast had been rough, resulting in the rolling and pitching of the trawler.

    "The movement of the ship made it quite a difficult rescue to execute," said Ress. "Pilot John Pocock was practically flying the chopper backwards at one point - he was great."

    Despite the conditions, the CHC chopper was equipped with special high-line technology that allowed for more controlled movement on and off the helicopter.

    The high-line is an extra line thrown down to the ship and connected to the winch that prevents those ascending and descending from swinging.

    Source: www.capetimes.co.za
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    Injured fishermen rescued by helicopter

    Bid to save Dead Sea

    Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority said on Sunday they had agreed terms for a feasibility study on transferring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, to save the world's lowest sea from vanishing.

    The two-year study, costing $15m, will investigate the social and environmental impact of conveying large quantities of water through a 200km conduit between the two seas.

    Experts at a discussion panel warned earlier in the day that the Dead Sea has been losing large quantities of water, posing a serious environmental disaster to the whole area.

    The project, if proven feasible, involves the building of a small canal on the Red Sea between Jordan and Israel and then pumping water to the Dead Sea through a 180km pipe or several pipes.

    The agreement was announced at a joint press conference on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) between Jordan's minister of water and irrigation, Raed Abu Saoud, Israeli infrastructure minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Palestinian planning minister Ghassan al-Khatib.

    Abu Saoud hailed the landmark agreement as a significant step to foster "understanding and co-operation between us and to strengthen peace in the region" and announced that a "new horizon has now begun".

    Ben-Eliezer described the agreement a "major economic leap ... the first of several other projects".

    Abu Saoud said that following the feasibility study, the project will take around five years to complete.

    But the project in its second phase involves building power generation and water desalination plants to supply electricity and fresh water to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

    Level dropping fast
    Zafer Alem, secretary general of Jordan Valley Authority, told AFP the first phase is estimated to cost $1bn, while the second phase is expected to cost up to $3bn.

    The surface of the Dead Sea is estimated to have dropped from 392m below sea level to 416m and is dropping at an alarming rate.

    Alem said that between 250 to 300 million cubic metres of fresh water were being lost annually because of a tilt in the Dead Sea plateau as a result of a drop in its level.

    He said that so far, 30% of the surface area of the Dead Sea has already been lost.

    Abu Saoud said that the Dead Sea needs some two billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea in order to save the Dead Sea.

    Experts said that some 66 billion cubic metres have evaporated from the Dead Sea because of industrial uses.

    The feasibility study will be supervised by the World Bank and financed by a number of donor countries.

    Inger Andersen of the World Bank told the debate that a meeting for donor countries is planned for early July.

    Experts estimate that desalinated water from the project will be enough for Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians over the next 50 years.

    Source: www.news24.com
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    Bid to save Dead Sea

    Whale muster mystefies Aussies

    At first there were about a dozen. Then, the numbers of sperm whales congregating at a point on Australia's south coast midway between Sydney and Melbourne grew to more than 100.

    The speculation is that these leviathans are breaking their annual journey south to take advantage of unusually warm waters rich in squid, their favourite food. But no one really knows.

    Karen Evans, a marine ecologist, told The Sydney Morning Herald that expert opinion was divided on whether sperm whales regularly got together for such big offshore jamborees.

    "It all depends on whether there is food to sustain them," the University of Tasmania academic said. "In Australian waters we have no idea what there numbers are."

    Sperm whales, like humpbacks, may be rising in number. The current convention between Pambula and Green Cape may reflect that.

    Before commercial whaling was outlawed in the 1960s, the humpback whale was nearly extinct. Only 200 were left in the world. But over a seven-week period last year over 1 600 were spotted from North Stradbroke Island, off the Queensland coast near Brisbane.

    University of Brisbane researchers reckon the local herd is back up to 3 500 and growing at a rate of 10 per cent a year. Perhaps sperm whales are making a big comeback too.

    Source: www.news24.com
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    Whale muster mystefies Aussies

    Antarctic buffers sea level rise

    The ice sheet covering the interior of Antarctica is thickening, researchers report in the journal Science.

    This bulge, which was recorded by satellite, may temporarily buffer rising sea levels, they believe. Antarctica's "weight gain" is due to extra snowfall, caused by rising temperatures, the US-UK team thinks.

    However, the scientists worry the overall mass of the Antarctic may be decreasing because ice near the coasts is melting, possibly at a greater rate.

    Understanding Antarctica
    The Antarctic contains the bulk of our planet's ice, so understanding its growth or shrinkage is critical to predicting future sea level changes.

    Scientists fear that if the planet's oceans swell significantly, there could be devastation on populated low-level islands and coastal regions.

    Sea levels are currently rising at about 1.8mm per year, largely because ice sheets in polar regions are melting, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said.

    However, the panel also predicted that global warming would lead to an increase in snow fall over the Antarctic, because warmer air leads to more evaporation and precipitation.

    Scientists from both sides of the Atlantic tested this theory by analysing the thickness of Antarctica's central ice sheets, using satellite radar altimetry measurements.

    They discovered that East Antarctica thickened at an average rate of 1.8cm per year between 1992 and 2003.

    The region, which covers 75% of Antarctica's total land area, holds 85% of the total ice volume.

    "The East Antarctic ice sheet absorbed ocean mass in the form of snowfall so, as a result, it slowed sea level rise," Curt Davis, of the University of Missouri, US, told the BBC News website.

    "It is a modest slowing, but it is somewhat surprising because all the other terrestrial ice masses are contributing to sea levels. This is the only one that is absorbing mass rather than contributing to it."

    Although Greenland may also be experiencing increased precipitation, Professor Davis says, the result is not the same.

    "In Greenland we are getting more snowfall but Greenland is a lot warmer," he explained. "So whenever you get an increase in temperature in Greenland, you also get increased melt."

    Finite effect
    Even though Antarctica is, at the moment, taking the edge off the effects of a warming global climate, we should not take too much comfort, say the researchers.

    Snowfall over East Antarctica will not continue to increase indefinitely in a warming world but, conversely, ice melt will accelerate proportionately with every degree of rising temperature, swelling oceans further.

    "The effect will only work for a finite period of time," Professor Davis said. "Eventually, the snow will start to melt."

    Also, the overall mass of Antarctica may be decreasing, because coastal melt may be happening faster than internal ice sheet gain.

    "Since sea levels are rising, that would be a reasonable assumption to make, although we don't know for sure," added Professor Davis.

    The instruments used in this particular study were unable to monitor the coastal regions because they could not cope with the steep terrain.

    However, the European Space Agency satellite CryoSat, due to be launched in the next year, should be up to the task, Professor Davis believes.

    "CyroSat has some special processes that allow it to do a better job," he said. "Over the next few years we should get a more definitive answer."

    Source: news.bbc.co.uk
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    Antarctic buffers sea level rise

    20 May 2005

    Maldives: Paradise for divers but hell for Maldivian dive professionals

    Classed amongst the top dive destinations in the world, even today Maldives attracts more dive enthusiasts than any other market of tourism. Some of the best dive brands are now operating in Maldives and is considered to be a very good industry to work in.

    Over the years, several Maldivians have taken up diver courses and training and some have enjoyed good fortune by securing a job with a large company like Eurodivers but there are hundreds who have not been as fortunate.

    No exact data is available on the number of dive professionals in Maldives such as Dive Masters and Instructors. The estimate is that there are more than 50 dive instructors and double that figure trained as dive masters. According to them one of the biggest obstacles they face in securing jobs is that problem of language.

    The largest dive market for Maldives is Italy and Germany so it is a requirement that they are able to teach in these language or at least communicate well in order to conduct their duties. Divers blame the government for it lack of planning and vision in providing such training to dive professionals.

    Another problem is that many dive bases and schools in Maldives are run by foreigners and they prefer to employ foreigners apparently because of the language but mostly because that person is known to the owner of the dive school or is a family member. In some resorts, sometimes there is just 1 Maldivian dive guides out of 24 and in some there is none. Government regulation is important in this sector if they are serious about the professional divers from Maldives.

    It has been more than 30 years since tourism began in Maldives but to this day there is not much importance attached to ensuring that locals are able to secure jobs in their respective fields such as diving, accounting and even in entertainment.

    Studying and training to become a diver master or an instructor is a lot of hard work and also costs quite a bit of money. People invest their time and money to become one because it is a relative high paid job.

    An instructor could earn anything between US$ 600 to US$ 2000 depending on experience. Surely, a qualified dive instructor would not want to sit and work in an office but some are doing just that in Maldives now because they have no opportunity in the field.

    Dive enthusiasts and professionals in Maldives have now launched a society in order to address and combat these issues but they are not getting the kind of support they need from the industry or the government. The whole purpose of the tourism industry is to provide a living for the people of Maldives first and to contribute to the public services that people need.

    By not addressing the issue of ensuring that locals are in full employment, the hard earned foreign currency is being squeezed out of Maldives at a very nigh percentage, estimated to be more than 80% on the receipts.

    The dive industry is yet another area where Maldivians are classed as second class citizens. These disparities in opportunities must be eliminated if we are to prosper as a nation that is ready to move forward into the 21st century as a developing nation.

    Source: www.dhivehiobserver.com
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    Maldives: Paradise for divers but hell for Maldivian dive professionals

    South African Navy names first female commander

    The South African Navy has appointed the first woman to command at sea, it said on Thursday.

    Sub-Lieutenant Latha Starling was to be appointed officer commanding the inshore patrol vessel SAS Tekwane, based in Durban, in a change of command ceremony on Friday, said the navy.

    Starling joined the navy in 1997, going on to complete two years at the military academy in Saldanha.

    She completed her combat officer's qualifying part 1 course in 2000, then spent time at sea in the mine counter-measures vessel, SAS Umzimkulu, and the combat support vessel, SAS Drakensberg.

    She has also completed an astro-navigation course, a bridge watch-keeping qualification and inshore patrol vessel training.

    Last year, Starling was first lieutenant on the inshore patrol vessels SAS Tern and SAS Tekwane.

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    South African Navy names first female commander

    Families of shipping collision victims go to court

    Families of the 14 victims of a tragic May 8 shipping collision off the coast of Port Elizabeth are taking legal action against the ship they say is responsible for claiming the lives of their loved ones.

    The dependents claim the negligence of the Ouro Do Brasil caused the death of 14 of the Lindsay's crew members, and are seeking compensation for loss of support by the deceased as projected to retirement age, says their lawyer, Philip Shaw.

    In addition, the two survivors of the Lindsay's crew of 16 - skipper Paul Landers, 36 and crewman John Ehlers, 37 - are taking part in the claim, seeking compensation for any injuries and loss of income they have suffered.

    The claim was instituted last Friday, and should take a few months to be processed, said Shaw.

    Matt Ash, lawyer representing the Ouro Do Brasil, confirmed that the claims are being defended, but said his client will not make an official statement until the results of the investigation are released.

    "Samsa (SA Maritime Safety Authority) must complete its investigation before anyone can make claims as to liability and responsibility. These concerns will be addressed in a formal court process," said Ash.

    According to earlier reports, large ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope from east to west come closer to shore to use the Indian Ocean's Aghulas current to speed their passage. From their high bridges, crew members often cannot see small vessels or manoeuvre fast enough to avoid them.

    Ian Gray, station commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute at Port Elizabeth, said he believed "human error" was involved in causing the accident.

    Gray was quoted as saying: "the bottom line is, obviously, somebody wasn't looking out".

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Families of shipping collision victims go to court

    Pneumonia blamed for death of black rhinos

    Kenyan wildlife authorities said on Thursday that pneumonia killed four black rhinos in a private sanctuary in Kenya's Rift Valley province after they were transferred from Nairobi National Park.

    The four pachyderms died early this month in a ranch owned by Italian author Kuki Gallman in Rift Valley's Laikipia district, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said.

    KWS spokesperson Connie Maina said in a statement that preliminary lab tests indicated that the rhinos died of pneumonia, but further forensic tests would be carried out.

    A task force has been formed to evaluate the capture and translocation of the rhinos, she added.

    The dead rhinos were part of a group of 10 that were transferred from a sanctuary in Nairobi National Park, home to 65 other rhinos, to Laikipia between April 30 and May, KWS said.

    Maina explained that a mortality rate of between five to 10 percent has been recorded in previous translocation of rhinos from the park. Since 1983, 67 rhinos have been moved from the Nairobi National Park to other understocked sanctuaries.

    There are about 435 black rhinos in Kenya, and "the recent loss of four rhinos is nonetheless higher than expected", she said.

    The death of the rhinos poses fresh strains between KWS and conservationists who have accused the government body of over-estimating the population of rhinos in the East African nation.

    Early this year, wildlife activists heaped pressure on the government to drop controversial plans to send hundreds of wild animals - including rhinos - to zoos in Thailand, appealing directly to President Mwai Kibaki to cancel the deal.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Pneumonia blamed for death of black rhinos

    Tsunami warning system in place soon - UN

    An interim tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean should be in place by October, mainly through upgrading an existing network of tide gauges, the head of the United Nations oceanographic body said on Thursday.

    By July next year, the Indian Ocean should be equipped with a high-tech array of wave and pressure sensors sending information to satellites that will alert a network of tsunami warning centres, said Patricio Bernal, who heads the Unesco's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

    The Indian Ocean already has 57 gauges on the sea surface that broadcast information about climate, tide changes and other scientific data every hour or so. The commission plans to upgrade 21 to 23 of them so they can detect a potential tsunami.

    "We intend to do this in the next six months by October, with the gauges broadcasting almost in real time," Bernal told Reuters in a telephone interview from his Paris headquarters.

    "That will allow us to confirm the presence or the absence of a tsunami," he said

    The upgraded tide gauges would transmit data about a potential tsunami to a satellite that would relay the information to existing tsunami warning centres for the Pacific Ocean in Japan and Hawaii. Those centres would be responsible for alerting Indian Ocean nations threatened by a tsunami.

    The upgraded gauges would be located off northwestern Sumatra, Diego Garcia and off the coast of Mauritius.

    "We have a reasonable network of detecting earthquakes. But it's important to put in place a network for detecting tsunamis - 93 percent of earthquakes don't produce tsunamis."

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Tsunami warning system in place soon - UN

    Celebrating International Biodiversity Day: SA welcomes publication of Global Biodiversity Synthesis Report

    "Biodiversity is the strength of the web of life, binding together all living things. It is the greatest expression of the truth that diversity holds the key to life. It is also one of the most important and threatened assets left to humankind."

    "The protection, promotion, and wise utilisation of biodiversity may very well form the cornerstone of our future global survival." These were the words of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, speaking in Cape Town on Thursday 19 May.

    The Minister was welcoming the launch of the Biodiversity Synthesis Report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) in advance of the worldwide celebrations of International Biodiversity Day on Sunday, 22 May.

    Entitled "Ecosystems & Human Well-Being", the report was officially launched today in Montreal , Canada by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It assesses the state of global biodiversity resources and takes a critical look at the implications of biodiversity loss. Amongst the key findings are that:

    • Changes in biodiversity due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history;
    • Over the last 100 years, human-caused species extinction has multiplied as much as 1,000 times;
    • Some 12% of birds; 23% of mammals; 25% of conifers and 32% of amphibians are currently threatened with extinction; and
    • The world's fish stocks have been reduced by an astonishing 90% since the start of industrial fishing.

    "What makes this report unique and of unprecedented global importance is the scope of its enquiry," said the Minister. "It examines biodiversity simultaneously, for the first time ever, at almost every possible level from local to regional to global.

    We are very proud that one of the pioneering regional assessments was the southern African Millennium Assessment (1), which was itself conducted at three scales: all of Africa south of the equator; within two major river basins, (the Gariep and Zambezi); and in several sites at the scale of local communities.

    Amongst the most significant results of this regional study is the conclusion that at least four of the eight Millennium Development Goals (reducing hunger and child mortality, combating diseases and ensuring environmental sustainability) will not be met in the southern African region unless decisive action is taken to stabilise our ecosystem services."

    Congratulating the local, regional and international authors of the report, the Minister added: "This work dovetails perfectly with our own recent South African initiatives on biodiversity. Earlier this year we launched the results of our National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA) - the first-ever comprehensive spatial evaluation of biodiversity across South Africa.

    The results were a warning to us all, with 34% of our terrestrial ecosystems threatened and 5% critically endangered; 82% of our river ecosystems are threatened with 44% critically endangered; three of our thirteen groups of estuarine biodiversity in critical danger; with 12% of marine bio-zones under serious threat.

    This report placed us in a position of scientific authority to identify which areas of our country need the most urgent attention and protection. Perhaps more importantly, the report made specific recommendations as to how best to link conservation with development in these threatened areas - ensuring sustainable conservation and community upliftment."

    "It is this link between communities and the environment that holds the key to reversing biodiversity losses," said the Minister. "The new global data supports our own local research showing that our poorest and least developed communities are most vulnerable to the impacts of biodiversity loss - whether locally, regionally or globally.

    As ecosystems collapse, and supplies of fresh water and agricultural production dwindle, it is our most at-risk citizens who suffer first and most deeply. Our South African response is to place communities at the centre of the environmental equation.

    Conservation, eco-tourism and environmental developments are all powerful sources of sustainable job creation and economic growth. The interests of people and ecology are one and the same - our shared challenge is to educate our citizens and direct our programmes to reflect this reality."

    (1) The Southern African component can be accessed at http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/subglobal.safma.aspx

    Source: www.deat.gov.za
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    Celebrating International Biodiversity Day: SA welcomes publication of Global Biodiversity Synthesis Report

    Dismay at state of world heritage site in South Africa

    A Boksburg resident and Gauteng cave expert has accused Blue IQ, the investment arm of the Gauteng provincial government, of the poor management of a World Heritage site.

    Fourie's Cave is a well-known palaeo-anthropological site on Bolt's Farm near the Sterkfontein Caves.

    "This is how we treat our World Heritage site," said Mike Buchanan after the degradation of the environment came to light.

    Refuse is piled up at the entrance to the cave, which he says "is unacceptable and appalling, creating an unhealthy environment for residents and the cave environment".

    Buchanan pointed out that Blue IQ was responsible for the management of the area. "The whole thing would appear to have no capacity. In-house decision-making and prioritising would appear to be questionable."

    He said Blue IQ was given the power to make decisions around this vital geology, termed karst (dolomite or limestone) - a water-containing substance which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    He said the University of the Witwatersrand and the Gauteng department of agriculture, Conservation and Environment (GDACE) had reported the poor state of the site as far back as November last year.

    The problem was also reported to the Mogale City Parks department and Blue IQ. But nothing had been done about it, and the situation was worsening.

    He said meetings were convened and there was talking, but nothing concrete was forthcoming. "I got so desperate, I volunteered to help," he said.

    According to Buchanan, there is legislation in place to protect these sites, but there is no capacity to enforce the legislation, which he says is a cause for grave concern.

    Dr Trish Hanekom, the chief executive of Blue IQ, said she was made aware of the problem at the site only 10 days ago.

    Hanekom said measures had been put in place to prevent this type of thing from happening.

    She said she appreciated that there were people out there who were aware and reported environmental degradation.

    A letter addressed to the Mogale City Parks Department, dated February 7, 2005, which was copied to Hanekom and the GDACE, raises concerns over the state of the area west of Bolt's Farm.

    The letter states that the environment in the area is in an "appalling state".

    It adds that one of the businesses in the area is polluting the groundwater with tar waste. Tar is also regularly burnt from the same "factory environment" for hours at a time.

    Much refuse has been "hidden" in the caves and sinkholes.

    Bolt's Farm and the surrounding area had an astounding subterranean wealth of rare flora and fauna which was worth protecting along with the ancient bones, Buchanan said.

    Source: www.iol.co.za
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    Dismay at state of world heritage site in South Africa

    'Struggling' CapeNature may close some reserves

    Run on what it describes as a "cut-to-the-bone" budget, CapeNature says it is under such severe financial pressure it may have to close some of its smaller reserves for up to a year or more.

    "We may have to close the doors of some of the reserves, but these will be ones that are not too popular. It is costing us more to keep them open than the amount made (from) visiting tourists," said CapeNature chief executive David Daitz.

    "Our cash flow is under severe pressure, so for a period we are going to have to tighten our belts."

    Daitz could not yet say which reserves might be closed. Although an increase in entrance fees could not be ruled out as an option, this would be a last resort as CapeNature was "sensitive" to raising costs.

    To be in a "comfortable" position, the struggling organisation needed an extra R20 million a year from the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

    There was not enough "breathing space" for CapeNature to operate efficiently.

    According to Daitz, it received about R63m a year, but this did not cover project management costs.

    Although it had predicted that tourist income over this financial year would be about R12.3m, there was no "guarantee" that it would be.

    Negotiations between the department and CapeNature are under way.

    Daitz said CapeNature hoped to "resolve" environmental crimes sooner as fines were a source of funds.

    "We will be looking to unresolved environmental crimes and try to resolve them more quickly to get an income," he said, adding that there were potentially more than 100 such cases.

    Over the past financial year, fines had brought in R500 000, he said.

    To ease its financial burden, CapeNature has also been "stretching creditors" and delaying payments.

    Daitz insisted, however, that CapeNature was not on its "last legs".

    "Where we would normally have paid within 30 days, we have had to stretch it to about 60 or 70 days."

    Asked how this would affect the upkeep of the environment, Daitz said CapeNature might have to postpone certain exercises, such as clearing alien vegetation or controlled burns.

    "But this may not be too big a concern initially. There may be consequences if we constantly have to postpone these kind of activities.

    "In future, it may cost us more to perform these functions as there could be more vegetation to clear."

    The department was "aware" of CapeNature's cash-flow problem, its head, Theo Tolmay, said.

    It was "not easy to give extra money", however.

    Tolmay confirmed that discussions were under way, but could not say when a resolution would be reached.

    "CapeNature is managing the problem," said Tolmay.

    "We will assist where we can."

    Source: www.capetimes.co.za
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    'Struggling' CapeNature may close some reserves