Rally to the cause, say fish farm critics

PE Hobie Beach parkrun takes runners (and walkers) along the sands of Pollok Beach
PE Hobie Beach parkrun takes runners (and walkers) along the sands of Pollok Beach
Image: Gillian McAinsh

Opponents of the sea-based Algoa Bay fish farm project are planning an unusual swim paddle-walk protest on the Port Elizabeth beachfront next weekend.

The event, which is being co-ordinated by Adventure Swims, is due to start at Hobie Beach at 9am on Saturday July 13.

Gary Koekemoer, chair of the Algoa Bay branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA, which is spearheading opposition to the fish farm, said the organisers were hoping that the public would turn out in force.

“The idea is that people will swim or paddle on surfboards or in kayaks from Hobie Beach to Humewood Beach.

“We’re hoping some scuba divers will join us as well.

“If the water’s too cold people can join the protest by walking between the two beaches.”

Koekemoer said organisers would speak to the crowd before they set out and hand over memorandums to key players at the end of the protest.

“We will explain how the event will work and then briefly describe the fish farm as it has been proposed by the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and outline why we are opposed to it.

“We’re hoping to encourage everyone to register and in that way voice their own protest.

“We have invited the metro, the business chamber and the project consultant, Anchor Environmental, and the aim is to hand over memorandums to representatives of each of them at the end of the event at Humewood Beach at about 10am.”

Koekemoer said the memos would contain two elements.

“They will communicate why we think the fish farm is a terrible idea, and why restoring the Swartkops Estuary is a way better alternative.”

The Swartkops was at present highly polluted with sewage, heavy metals and microplastics and this was affecting its role as a natural fish factory, he said.

“We know that when it was healthy the Swartkops was an important nursery in the life cycle of many of our marine fishes which are now under serious threat, but pollution is destroying this capacity.”

The knock-on effect of fewer juvenile fish sheltering in the estuary was diminished birdlife, tourism, watersport, and recreational and subsistence fishing, he said.

“If we restore the Swartkops we can turn those problems around, bolster our fish stocks and at the same time give poor people from Motherwell and other surrounding townships the opportunity to go down to the river and catch their own fish on a sustainable basis.

“Why not spend available resources on a natural asset like this with multiple benefits rather than a fish farm that will produce a high-end product for export?”

Spokesperson for the new department of environment, forestry and fisheries, Albi Modise, said on Tuesday evening that the project consultant team was finalising its draft basic assessment report by incorporating the contributions of various stakeholders.

‘If we restore the Swartkops, we can turn those problems around’