Tsitsikamma National Park shore fishing halted after High Court appeal

  • 20 January 2016 | Ann Kunz

A group of concerned citizens called the “Friends of Tsitsikamma” were forced to take legal action against the Department of Environmental Affairs, South African National Parks and the Tsitsikamma Angling Forum after the authorities opened four designated areas of the Tsitsikamma National Park to recreational shore fishing on 15 December 2015.

This so-called “pilot project” gave an exclusive group of local fishermen access to some 20% of South Africa’s oldest Marine Protected Area (MPA), without following due legal process. This set two dangerous precedents: first, the granting of exclusive extractive rights for recreational fishing to a limited number of people living adjacent to a protected area; and second, the lack of due process followed (i.e. inadequate public consultation).

The marine bounty of Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa's oldest Marine Protected Reserve – currently under threat. Photo courtesy of Steven Benjamin 

ORI senior scientist Bruce Mann was instrumental in preparation of the scientific evidence required for the court case, based on over 25 years of research conducted in MPAs. This involved the collation of almost 400 pages of legal documentation and three appearances in the Pretoria High Court.

The Friends of Tsitsikamma won their case on 8 January 2016, when the authorities capitulated and acknowledged the following breaches: Procedural and administrative fairness; Section 24 of Environmental Rights; Rule of law; The Constitution; and Contravention of the Protected Areas Act and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). 

A court order was made to stop the pilot project immediately, and they were ordered to pay all the costs of the Friends of Tsitsikamma. This outcome represents an important victory for conservation in South Africa, as it proves to those administering environmental law that they will be held accountable by civil society groups, such as the Friends of Tsitsikamma, who act for this generation and for future generations.

This case highlights the importance of the Tsitsikamma National Park as a national asset for all South Africans. The draft Government Gazette, which proposes to open 20% of the park to recreational shore angling, is still open for comment until 1 February 2016. This forms part of the legal public consultation process.

For more information on the public participation phase, consult the Tsitsikamma National Park fact sheet.

To date, more than 7 000 South African citizens and marine scientists have signed a petition to keep the Tsitsikamma National Park closed to shore fishing. Follow the link to add your voice to this vitally important marine conservation effort.

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