Some communities still to be informed

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The proposed Algoa Seven fish farm site off Coega has not been properly assessed and Algoa One off Pollok Beach is simply not feasible, the Wildlife and Environment Society says.Gary Koekemoer, Algoa Bay branch chairman, said Algoa Seven had not gone through the same detailed assessment process as the other sites and instead used assessment data from the now discarded Algoa Two and Algoa Five sites to conclude it was viable.“. . . the basic assessment report does not assess the impact on nearby communities, nor is it informed by local community input.”Algoa Seven was in close proximity to the beaches of Bluewater Bay and St George’s Strand and those communities had to be informed of potential impacts in the same way that the communities adjacent to Algoa One had been informed, he said. “This has not happened.” Koekemoer said it was important to note the finding in the basic assessment report that conditions at Algoa One were marginal for economic aquaculture and only limited mitigation was possible.“The assessment of the visual impact excludes a major portion of the northern section of Algoa One, and the socio-economic study excludes the southern section after finding that it overlaps with a squid nursery area.”The assessment report proposed a phased approach with careful monitoring to mitigate negative impacts, he noted.“There is a much simpler conclusion to be drawn, namely that Algoa One is not feasible in its entirety.”He said the fish farm project was preempting a landmark spatial development plan that was being worked out for the Bay by the government and Nelson Mandela University (NMU).The legislation was being promulgated by the environment department and a unit funded by the South African Research Chairs Initiative had been established at NMU specifically to tackle the matter.Academics from the unit together with Algoa Bay user groups had highlighted the viability of the bay as recipient of a pilot marine spatial plan given its status as the most scientifically studied body of water in the southern hemisphere, he said.“If finalisation of the marine spatial plan is imminent, why rush the aquaculture development zone process?Estee Vermeulen, a member of the NMU marine spatial planning research team, said the team was concerned the fish farm project was apparently not considering the marine spatial planning process as outlined in the government-driven framework and in the published marine spatial planning bill.“The framework emphasises cooperative governance and it does not seem as if clear coordination has been established between the government departments in charge of different marine activities in the bay.“The consultant’s own socio-economic study indicated that the Algoa One site off Summerstrand is not economically feasible and that has to be taken into account in terms of sound and integrated marine spatial planning.”..

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