NELSON Mandela Bay will know at the end of the month if government will go ahead with its controversial fish farm proposed for Hobie Beach.
Responding to a question during a media briefing ahead of his budget speech yesterday, Finance MEC Sakhumzi Somyo said Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, to whom scores of objections regarding the project have been addressed, is expected to make a decision by March 30.
The proposed fish farm is one of government’s flagship projects to boost the ocean economy of the Eastern Cape and to create jobs from the province’s marine resources.
However, its proposed location has been met by overwhelming opposition from the Bay’s tourism sector, the business chamber – which represents some of the city’s biggest employers – and the municipality.
While they all support the project, they said placing it at Hobie Beach, one of the city’s prime tourism spots, would harm the tourism sector and deter prestigious watersports events which bring in millions of rands to the city.
They also criticised government’s poor consultation process with the city’s tourism chief, Mandlakazi Skefile, and business chamber CEO Kevin Hustler saying they only found out about the project through the media.
Asked what the status of the project was at present, Somyo said public submissions closed at the end of January.
“We expect the minister to make a decision on those submissions by March 30.
“But we must emphasise that the project is part of the efforts to utilise the huge potential we have in the ocean’s economy.”
Somyo said the Eastern Cape’s lengthy coastline gave the province a competitive edge to grow through a sector of the economy that was unique to a handful of provinces.
“Our country is now entering a phase of exploring the ocean economy. As a province we plan to capitalise on the 800km coastline advantage to develop a thriving ocean economy. Operation Phakisa directs us on how we can benefit from the ocean,” Somyo said.