Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

South Africa’s marine economy is threatened by overfishing and dumping, the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 heard on Thursday.

Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, said the continent’s blue economy will improve for the better in 10 years from now with the measures in place to protect it. She, however, raised a concern about dumping in the ocean which affects marine life.

Molewa was a panelist at the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 where experts from abroad were sharing ideas on how to better handle activities that have detrimental impact on the continent’s ocean.

For the country and Durban in particular, Molewa said “huge opportunities” have been identified in the manufacturing and ocean transport sector.

“The fact that SAs economy was not constructed with the focus on the shore line did not stop us from identifying that shortfall. Loading raw material and receiving incoming goods are some of the opportunities that exist for our country. The Port of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay are developed through our industrialisation programme. We are doing fish breeding on our shore lines to ensure that we don’t run the risk of certain species becoming extinct,” Molewa said on the sidelines of the session.

She said drones, which are not expensive to operate, were deployed to guard fishing activities.

She said her office had received complaints from Durban individuals and groups who want fishing licenses.

“We are on guard of our marine life through legislation and scientific monitoring. Those people must not think that they are ignored but we are saying follow proper protocol and fishing licensing rules. The licenses on demand are for small boat fishing and angling,” she said.

South Africa has about 4 000 kilometres of coastline and if protected, the country could have about 1 million jobs by 2032.

Herman Betten, session facilitator, said the ocean was not managed very well in the African continent. He said more than a billion people relied on fishing for survival.

“It takes six kilograms of salmon to make one kg of salmon. Eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped into our ocean every year. About 400 dead zones in the ocean already exist. The more active we become in protecting the ocean, the mercury that we find in fish will be extracted from the ocean gradually,” Betten said.

He said illegal, unreported and smuggled tuna fish was another blow for ocean economy.

Biao Juliette, director of the United Nations Environmental Programme, said she did not think that Africans have enough knowledge on oceans and that marine litter was not receiving enough attention.

“Heavy metal going into the rivers and into the sea is difficult to extract. The more toxic the waste, the more difficult it will be to extract,” he said.

The oceans are worth $24 trillion, and more than 90 percent of Africa’s imports and exports transported by sea.

“From piracy to environmental degradation, how can new tools, technologies and partnerships help to better harness and protect this global common? These are the issues that need to be addressed,” he said.

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