The death of two whales caused by entanglement in octopus traps in recent weeks has caused an uproar among marine conservationists and local residents. A petition doing the rounds, to suspend exploratory fishing for octopus ,has gathered thousands of signatures.
On Friday, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy announced the decision to temporarily suspend exploratory fishing for octopus with immediate effect.
Creecy’s decision comes after talks with operators in the False Bay Area.
“Our decision is taken following widespread public concern regarding recent whale entanglements in the False Bay area which has resulted in the untimely and cruel death of these magnificent creatures.”
The statement Creecy released explains how the traps came into existence.
“In 2014, the Department established an octopus exploratory fishery that is operating in Saldanha, False Bay and Mossel Bay. This programme aims to gain scientific knowledge regarding octopus harvesting, with a view to enhancing job creation and economic development in coastal areas. Meaningful data has been collected between 2014 and 2018, and will continue until 2021 in order to ensure a solid statistical time series of catch and effort data.
“Once enough data has been collected, it will be analysed and subjected to proper scientific scrutiny and review, after which a recommendation will be made regarding the viability of establishing a new commercial fishery. Such a recommendation will also consider mitigating measures in the operations of octopus fishery,” read the statement.
Throughout the process, the Department has been leading with permit holders to ensure whales do not get caught in the nets.
After today’s meeting, operators will start the process of removing the gear from False Bay, focusing on the areas where the whales were harmed first.
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