Call to protect estuaries

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pretoria - There is a need to improve the current status of the estuaries across South Africa, including the seriously deteriorating water quality, Environmental Affairs Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said on Thursday.

"Pollution in the form of sewerage, disposal of litter, and industrial effluent also threatens human health and has a detrimental effect on plants and animals which include the prawns, pencil bait and blood worms that are important for the livelihoods of the local people," she said at the celebrations of National Marine Week in Swartkops outside Port Elizabeth.

The National Marine Week campaign is held annually in October.

Officials say the Swartkops estuary is one of the top ranked estuaries in terms of its importance and economic value. Tourism alone is estimated to generate R50 million per year, subsistence use accounts for R808 953 and its value as a nursery area for fish and invertebrates is equivalent to R38.2 million. It provides a suitable environment for many different plants species and animal species including about 4000 birds in summer.

It is for this reason that the Swartkops estuary is ranked as the 11th most important estuary out of the 300 estuaries in South Africa in terms of its biodiversity.

"The Swartkops estuary, like many of South Africa's estuaries has its own challenges. Despite its importance and economic contribution to the communities, there are concerns that affect the integrity of the estuary," said Mabudafhasi.

The department selected the Swartkops estuary as one of the first pilot sites in 2007 to test the process of developing management plans and to ensure the abovementioned issues are addressed. The process is holistic and includes all the relevant stakeholders in managing the estuary.