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South Africa soon to have "Big 7"

by Vivian Warby
on 18 Jun 2009
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

South Africa will soon be the only country to boast the Big 7, when the shark and the whale are added to the already well-know Big 5 tourist attractions in the country.

Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica announced this today when briefing media shortly before her Budget Vote in Parliament.

The minister said this was "a very significant move for tourism as we will become the only country in the world to boast a Big 7.

"We can offer tourists, among other things, a shark dive in Gaansbaai. We will be marketing these animals - sharks and whales - to the whole world. It will have a significant impact on tourism," she said.

She said on the basis of available science, South Africa has significant numbers of species in the top ocean predators such as the shark and the whale. "On that basis we will add these two species to the Big 5 and then have a resultant Big 7."

The minister said declining fish stocks continued to pose a huge challenge to fisheries management in the country. "This is not a national but a global phenomenon with approximately 25 percent of the world's marine fish stocks being considered over-exploited.

"This requires innovative management strategies if we want to ensure sustainability of our marine living resources. A government-wide intervention is required in the coastal communities to address coastal poverty and alternative livelihood opportunities in light of declining fish stocks," she said.

She said it was important to continue to pursue the government's programmes of protecting the country's marine life, given that there is already a decline of the stocks of some of the species being endangered, for example the shark.

The minister said this year had been declared the year of the Shark and October would be declared Marine Month to focus on the significance of the country's sea and marine life.

On environmental crime, the minister said, the Department of justice could not adequately deal with it and hence environmental courts would be set up to see that criminals are not only caught but also prosecuted.

She said many environmental crimes were committed by organised crime syndicates, such as the Chinese mafia, adding that government would not take a soft stance on perpetrators.

The minister added that partnerships with security institutions such as SAPS, NPA, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Department of Defence were crucial to deal effectively with environmental crimes.

The environmental courts would as part of the criminal justice system tackle all environmental criminal activities "for if we fail to deal decisively with those who continue to plunder our resources and pollute our ecosystems with impunity, we will be failing our responsibility of conserving our environment".

On climate change, the minister said, it was a threat to the stability of South Africa and if left unattended could cause serious damage not only to the environment but to the entire ecosystem and the country's ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

"We need to demystify the climate change debate and ensure that our people have a full understanding of human activities that contribute to climate change.

"This month has been declared Environment Month with the call for all South Africans to act as responsibly in the quest to ultimately combat climate change," the minister said. - BuaNews

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