Plan to save Benguela birds, turtles and sharks

Posted by Laura Grant on July 26, 2007
Posted in Green News

From jellyfish that have multiplied to such an extent that they interfere with fishing operations, to the deaths of large numbers of seabirds, turtles and sharks, it’s pretty clear that things are not going swimmingly off South Africa’s west coast.

About 34,000 seabirds, 4,200 turtles, and more than 7-million sharks and skates are killed in longline fishing operations in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) annually, according to the WWF.

The Benguela current flows northwards from the Southern Ocean along the Atlantic coast of Africa as far as Angola.

However, this week a plan to reduce the impacts of fishing on southern Africa’s marine ecosystems has been released by the WWF and the BCLME.

Traditionally, fisheries have focussed on maintaining the populations of particular species – such as hake and sardines – at commercially viable levels and little consideration has been given to the impacts of fishing on other marine life, the WWF reports. But a new ecosystem approach to fisheries that focuses on the health of the entire ecosystem that maintains a commercial fish species like hake, is gaining ground.

Southern African states committed themselves to implementing this new approach to fisheries management at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, says the WWF, but many stakeholders appear to have been intimidated by the complexity of implementing the ecosystem approach, though.

The new report delivers “a clear and practical plan of how we can go about implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries in Southern Africa,” says Dr Michael O’Toole, chief technical advisor for the BCLME programme.

Dr Deon Nel, head of the WWF Sanlam Living Waters Partnership, adds that “having this plan on the table is great achievement. However, we now need to move from planning to implementation.”

The main ecological risks in the ecosystem, according to the report, are to predators such as seabirds, sharks and tunas, when the fish they feed on are removed; to vulnerable and slow breeding species, such as turtles, seabirds and sharks, that get injured or killed by fishing gear; and to the the sensitive sea life on the bottom of the ocean fromthe impacts of heavy fishing gear.

(Source: WWF)

Benguela Large Marine Ecosystem Programme


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