BOWMAN GILFILLAN AFRICA GROUP ASSISTS TO SET ASIDE A PILOT PROJECT ALLOWING FISHING WITHIN THE TSITSIKAMMA MARINE PROTECTED AREA

By Lauren Turner,Trudie Nichols Monday, January 25, 2016
  • SHARE THIS ARTICLE

Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group, instructed by the Wildlands Conservation Trust, assisted the Friends of Tsitsikamma, in launching an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court to interdict SANParks, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the Tsitsikamma Community from implementing a decision to permit recreational angling in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (TMPA) pending the outcome of a review application which also formed the second part of the application proceedings.

The Tsitsikamma National Park is the oldest and one of the largest marine protected areas in Southern Africa, having first been declared a protected area in 1964. The TMPA alone conserves 11% of South Africa’s Temperate South Coast rocky shoreline and provides a laboratory for fisheries baseline research on endangered line fish species and natural ecosystem functioning. For at least the past 15 years, legislation and policy have prohibited fishing within the TMPA which is currently an area of “no take” based on sound scientific reasoning.

Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group's partner in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution department, Trudie Nichols explains, "On 19 November 2015, the Minister published draft notices and regulations in the Government Gazette calling for public comment on the feasibility of opening up four areas within the TMPA to shore fishing, by 1 February 2016.

"Notwithstanding that the public comment process was underway, on or about the 30 November 2015, SANParks and the Minister, announced that a pilot project for recreational angling would be permitted from 15 December 2015 for the benefit of the Tsitsikamma Community only and for research purposes," she notes.

Nichols explains that Friends of Tsitsikamma, an association comprising scientists, academics and marine conservationists throughout the country, argued that the decision to permit recreational angling as a pilot project while the public consultation process on the very issue was underway was prohibited by law. Further that is was made and implemented in violation of section 33 of the Bill of Rights read with the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act and would result in long term damage to fish populations and related marine life in the TMPA area.

SANParks and the Minister capitulated in respect of the application in its entirety on 8 January 2016 before the Honourable Justice Prinsloo J. Their capitulation was an acknowledgment of the following breaches: procedural and administrative fairness; section 24: Environmental rights;the Rule of Law; the Constitution; the Protected Area Act; and the National Environment Management Act.
"As a result, all three respondents were interdicted from implementing the decision to allow recreational angling within the marine protected area. In addition, the decision to implement the pilot project for recreational angling was reviewed and set aside," she says.

Nichols adds that this order highlights the importance of the Tsitsikamma National Park as a national asset for all South Africans. The draft notices in the Government Gazette which propose to open 20% of the park to recreational angling is still open for public comment until 1 February 2016. To date over 6 000 South African citizens and marine scientists have signed a petition to keep the Tsitsikamma National Park closed to fishing. View the petition here.

The Friends of Tsitsikamma were represented by Trudie Nichols and associate Lauren Turner, together with Advocate Andrea Gabriel SC of the Durban Bar.