Bunkering concerns meeting this week

Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism set to host Port Elizabeth beachfront event

Marine rangers remove heavily oiled penguins from St Croix Island to be cleaned up during rescue operations after the July 6 bunkering spill in Algoa Bay
Marine rangers remove heavily oiled penguins from St Croix Island to be cleaned up during rescue operations after the July 6 bunkering spill in Algoa Bay
Image: Lloyd Edwards / Raggy Charters

Tourism and conservation stakeholders want the authorities to reconsider allowing bunkering in Algoa Bay and are hosting a public meeting this week to raise and collate concerns.

All “custodians of the bay” have been invited to the beach front meeting which is being hosted by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism (NMBT).

Boat-based whale watching operator Lloyd Edwards, who will be one of the speakers, said on Tuesday the fact that there had been two spills since the industry was launched in the bay in 2016 needed to be scrutinised.

At the same time Nelson Mandela Bay’s strong tourism and conservation assets like its part in the humpback whale migration and its status as the bottlenose dolphin capital of the world needed to be factored in, he said.

“We also have the sardine run which is right now the subject of a David Attenborough Netflix documentary. Besides that we have the biggest African penguin colony and the biggest gannetry in the world and of course the new SANParks Addo marine protected area designed to showcase all this.

“We need to consider the substantial revenue tourism and especially marine tourism bring into Nelson Mandela Bay and the viability of bunkering considering the damage that could be done to this tourism industry.”

Environmental consultant Ronel Friend, who will also be speaking at the meeting, said she would be highlighting the considerable negative impacts that had resulted from the two bunkering spills – the first in July 2016 and the second on July 6 2019 – despite their relatively small size.

The leaching of the oil into the sea and the release of toxic hydrocarbons needed to be considered as well as the affect on other less visible species and ecosystems and the life cycle impact of partial oiling of seabirds as well as the more obvious heavily oiled victims that had been rescued.

She would also be raising concerns about the transparency of the bunkering licensing system, she said.

NMBT chairperson Shaun Fitzhenry urged members of the public and especially anyone connected with tourism, to attend.

“As a custodian of the bay you are invited to this public meeting to voice your concerns over the bunkering. We plan to compile and submit a concern report to the appropriate departments to reconsider these operations in Algoa Bay.”

The meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday at 6.30pm at the Dolphin’s Leap conference centre.

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