Marine and coastal monitoring during lockdown

17 April 2020

By Cobus Meiring

“Deserted Southern Cape beaches stretch for miles with only cormorants, Black Oyster Catchers and seagulls going about their business in glorious sunshine, without a trace of even a human footprint to be seen. This is a sight extremely unlikely ever to be repeated,” says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

“Continued marine and coastal monitoring by the Garden Route District Municipality’s Disaster Management team, Knysna Municipality Disaster Management, SCLI, SANParks and CapeNature, as well as the presently ongoing environmental programmes, such as the Sea Turtle Rescue, other conservation and protection programmes and the SCLI Cape Floristic Corridor Revival Programme provides interesting insights during abnormal conditions.”

“In as much as international reports in the media reflect an extremely high successful sea turtle breeding season along the coast of India, as well as an abundance of returning sealife to crystal clear waters in the Venetian waterways and channels off the Italian coast, we are unlikely to witness dramatic changes to nature in the Southern Cape in such a short time-span”.

“In as much as nature is resilient, and ecosystems that are on the brink of collapse, supporting species such as the critically endangered sea turtle and the ever-dwindling South African fish stocks can recover dramatically fast if left unhindered, but much more time is required for any such recovery than what the national lockdown will allow for.”

“What the lockdown does allow, is time to reflect on the way we manage our collapsing natural infrastructure and resources, and present us with a one-time opportunity to make structural and far-reaching changes which will allow humankind and nature a last-ditch opportunity to survive the coming onslaught of climate change.”

“Athough much criticized at the time, government-enforced legislation banning driving on Southern Cape beaches caused outrage. Enforcing strict fishing quotas and prohibiting fishing in newly established marine protected areas also enraged the angling community. However, the results were magnificent, and the stricter measures were eventually accepted as a new normal.”

“Perhaps COVID-19 opened up a window of opportunity all thought unthinkable just three weeks ago. Conservation bodies in the Southern Cape must take time to do an in-depth review of conservation practices in the region to the long-term benefit of a very fast-growing population putting ever more and relentless pressure on the protection of our environment,” concludes Meiring.

** The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI) is a public platform and think tank for landowners and land managers with an interest in invasive alien plant management, water stewardship and land management. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund (TMF), a subsidiary of WWF SA.

About the SCLI Cape Floristic (River) Corridor Revival and Training Programme

The SCLI Cape Floristic Corridor Revival and Training Programme is a regional initiative to improve efforts to enhance the survival of the Southern Cape floristic footprint. It is a three-year project, aimed at entrenching the principle of corridor conservation objectives over time, and obtaining landowner commitment and support through the direct investment of the development of invasive alien plant control plans as well as training.

The project entails the establishment of a network of north/south conservation corridors along selected river systems – Groot Brak, Kaaimans, Touws, Knysna and Goukamma – in the Southern Cape. The selected corridors represent crucially important remaining natural land available for biodiversity connectivity and conservation in the Southern Cape.

By using the river systems to connect the Outeniqua Mountains unhindered with the Indian Ocean, the option exists to establish conservation corridors, designated to the survival of biodiversity.

The project is aimed at determining factors that inhibit corridor flow through an interactive land management framework.