Saturday, February 03, 2007

The 2007 World Wetlands Day

Media Statement
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
02 FEBRUARY 2007:
The 2007 World Wetlands Day theme "Fish for Tomorrow?" draws attention to
the intricate link between healthy fish stocks and maintaining healthy
wetlands. Estuaries and estuarine wetlands are particularly valuable for
maintaining food species populations, however increasingly unsustainable
development and water use reduces their ability to provide ecological
services.
Speaking during the World Wetland celebration in Knysna, the Deputy Minister
of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Rejoice Mabudafhasi stated that the
slogan for this year has relevance to the challenges facing everybody in the
fishing industry because one billion people worldwide rely on fish as their
main or even sole source of food and proteins and yet the current state of
fisheries continues to be under threat.
In the Knysna Estuary, which is rated Number One in terms of conservation
importance and has one of the highest biodiversity levels of any estuary in
South Africa, the impact of questionable land management in its catchment
and development and settlement-related pollution in its immediate basin,
combined with overexploitation of fish populations, has created an urgency
for appropriate management intervention.
Even though some South African estuaries are still in good condition, the
health and ecological functioning of many are being increasingly reduced by
various activities both in their catchment and in their immediate area
Minister Mabudafhasi said. Because they lie at the end of rivers, they bear
the cumulative impact of activities in their catchments where increased
sedimentation resulting from activities such as agriculture, timber
plantations and insensitive development, and pollution from fertilisers,
sewage, mining and industry, all contribute to reducing the quality of river
water.
In Knysna, the development in the immediate basin is causing the biggest
impact. Already about a quarter of the Knysna salt marsh has been destroyed
by urban development such as the building of houses, canalisation, land
reclamation, hardening of soils and road cuttings.
As part of the ongoing law reform process in the department, DEAT has now
initiated a public participation process to discuss the Integrated Coastal
Management Bill which will become an Act of Parliament in the near future.
The Bill emphasises the enormous social and economic benefits of marine and
coastal resources such as wetlands.
The Bill further addresses issues of mismanagement and degradation of the
marine environment and coastal resources and calls for a "National estuarine
management protocol" which will ensure that Estuaries within our country are
managed in a co-ordinated and efficient manner in accordance with the
protocol", said Mabudafhasi
Considering the imminent impacts of climate change and increasing
development, the protection and, where necessary, restoration of wetlands
plays an important role in ensuring that there is no increase in human
vulnerability in near future years.
The economic value of estuaries is estimated at R153,000/ha/year and the
estuarine recreational fishing industry in South Africa is worth about R2
billion.

Please RSVP to:
Blessing Manale (Acting Chief Director: Communications) Telephone: 012 310 3457 Mobile: 083-677-1630 E-mail: bmanale@deat.gov.za

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