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It Awaits - iLINDILE launched at Swartvlei

SANParks is intensifying efforts against environmental crimes in the estuaries in the Garden Route National Park. Today, there is a new vessel to replace the 10-year old rubber duck to patrol the Knysna estuary.
The vessel was named iLINDILE (Xhosa meaning – ‘It awaits’). The 5.8m Infanta rubber duck has two Yamaha 60-horse power, four stroke engines sourced through Knysna Marine.

The vessel was SAMSA certified under Category C, meaning it complies with all safety requirements and has equipment to enable it to go out to sea and assist other stakeholders if necessary.

The Vessel will be used for the following:

• Compliance monitoring patrols.
• Maintenance.
• Research (Internal and external researchers, local and international)
• Rescue operations.
• Assistance to other stakeholders (SAPS, DAFF, NSRI etc.)

In terms of the Environmental Crime Statistics in Knysna, the number of fines are on the increase for people collecting bait illegally. Fines were issued in the following areas:

Not having fishing permit available for inspection.
Use of a seine net.
Fishing without a permit.
Exceeding the daily bag limit.
Collecting of bait by means other than by hand.
Not in possession of invoice for fish bought.
Failure to comply with written notice.


The following were extracted illegally from the system between January 2017 and September 2017:

• 110 Polychaete worm.
• 20 Bloodworms.
• 444 Moonshine worms.
• 50 Cracker Shrimp.
• 330 Mud prawn.
• 2 Garden Forks.
• 1 Spear gun.
• 1 Seine net.
• A number of undersized fish species.

Boilerplate:

The Knysna estuary was declared as South Africa’s number 1 estuary in terms of its rich biodiversity.
It rakes in billions for property agents of people who buy along the water body for its sense of place and is a huge spinner for tourism for water activities. According to Barry Clarke and Jane Turpy (independent researchers), the estuary is home to 43% of South Africa’s plant and animal life and supports rare fish species such as the grunter, white steenbras, dusky cob and cape stumpnose. Knysna’s jewel, the estuary, alone contributes some 21, 6% of the total economic value of the 249 national estuaries.’ SANParks is launching a new boat to protect the estuary and assist the people of Knysna and its visitors on Tuesday, the 07th November 2017.

Regrowth in some areas of Harkerville:

The largest part of the Garden Route National Park affected by the recent Knysna fires (June) is in the Harkerville section, making up a portion of the Knysna forests and fynbos areas.

Harkerville is an activity hub for nature and is known for its blue duiker population. Zoned off areas for tourism include hiking and world-famous cycling routes.
All cycling routes are open and hiking routes except the 2-day Harkerville Coastal hiking route.

Status of activities in Harkerville:

Kranshoek Picnic area:

- The picnic area is open for use however there are portable toilets for visitors to use after the fire burnt the old toilet block.

- SANParks is fast-tracking the procurement process of new water tanks to provide drinking water by the 15th Dec 2017.

Kranshoek Trail:

- The Kranshoek Trail is still closed, and maintenance work is currently underway.

- About 90% of the route is complete and the rest should be open by end of this week.

- Rebuilding and rehabilitating the route will probably continue until end of Dec 2017. The trail should be up and running by the end January 2018.

- There is a clear sign at the entrance and parking area to inform the public of closure and maintenance of routes.

Kranshoek Viewpoint:

- Currently still closed and not accessible to visitors as yet until management and scientists have finalised urgent deliverables pertaining to the area.

Harkerville Trail:

- The coastal portion of the trail is still closed.
- An alternative scenic route was opened along the coastal ridge
- Bookings the trail will be open as from 20th November 2017.


Additional efforts to assist the town of Knysna:

Immediately after the Knysna fires, SANParks helped the town of Knysna with post-fire assessments with Geographical Information System (GIS). This played an important role to determine high-risk areas in urgent need of immediate rehabilitation. ‘GIS technology is used to capture, analyse and present digital geographic data.’
A Garden Route Rebuild (GRR) structure made up of various partners was established. It is led by the Provincial Department of the Western Cape was formed to

• High risk erosion sites were identified through field surveys and this process is ongoing.

• Erosion mitigation materials (sediment Retention Fibre Rolls and carpets) has been received from DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs).

• Training was completed for the installation of erosion mitigation materials.

• The installation erosion materials has commenced on high risk erosion areas.

• Invasive Alien Plant control in burnt scar can only commence after some regrowth – 3- 6 month window.

• Project proposal for erosion mitigation and invasive alien plant management has been submitted to the National Disaster Management Committee for emergency funding.

Swartvlei estuary:

‘There does not seem to be a straight 1:1 relationship between the health of the estuary and the amount of time it remains open. There are a lot of factors that determine the successful opening of the estuary mouth’ according to SANParks scientist, Dr. Ian Russell. He adds that multiple factors influence the amount of time that Swartvlei estuary remains open after breaching. These include marine conditions (the sea closes the estuary), storminess at sea (will often close sooner in winter than in summer), catchment rainfall, and others.

The Swartvlei system is classified as a temporary open/closed estuary. During the open and closed phases there are unique ecological process that collectively work together to maintain a delicate food web. The estuary mouth will generally close naturally during the low rainfall periods as there is a reduction of the inflow of freshwater. This process of closing will also be affected by the deposition of sediment from tidal inflow.

Any successful breaching of the estuary mouth will result in the inflow of saline water from the ocean. This results in changes in the salinity of the system, and hence changes in ecosystem processes. This is a natural progression, and both open and closed phases are important and necessary to ensure a healthy, functioning estuary.

The closed state is a highly productive phase for the estuary. We have seen that it marks a phase of recovery for aquatic plants (which have reduced by over 95% in Swartvlei in the past years). Similarly, the closed phase favours waterbirds.

When an estuary closes, benthic micro-algal populations begin to recover and build up. This forms an important base of the food web providing nutrition for invertebrates that are consumed by fish and birds. The stable conditions of the closed phase also provide suitable conditions for the growth of submerged plants. Dissolved oxygen can be higher during closed phases, due to the increased photosynthetic activity in the estuary. These plants also provide important foraging and refuge habitat for juvenile fish.

The observed increases in salinity in Swartvlei over the last 10 years or so were brought about by extended naturally open phases coupled with low in-flows of fresh water from the catchment. These salinity changes have affected the estuary’s biota positively. The current closed phase is contributing to progressive reductions in salinity down to levels more typical of those prior to the 2007 flood events.

The Garden Route Management Park Plan outlines conditions under which the mouth of the estuary can be breached artificially. Artificial breaching is associated with a reduced head of water behind the sand berm at the mouth. Under such conditions (i.e. reduced head of water), there will be reduced scouring of sediment from the estuary on breaching, thus not creating a deep enough channel. Repeated low level breaching will almost certainly lead to gradual shallowing of the estuary from medium to longer-term sediment accumulation.

SANParks ranger in Swartvlei, Jonathan Britton says there is a lot of fishing pressure on the fish stocks in Swartvlei. ‘The closed phase is very important for the overall health of the system as well as for managing the fish stocks’.

Long term data suggests that Swartvlei is not undergoing rapid deterioration in water quality. Nevertheless, it has been more saline for the past decade, resulting in a very different system. Such regime shifts, if driven by natural processes need not necessarily be permanent, or either better or worse, just different. Nevertheless, when we continually drive such changes through our actions, there can potentially be undesirable long-term or even permanent changes from which the system may struggle to recover. Thus, keeping the system healthy, with options for the future, is a vitally important management approach, under uncertain and changing conditions, including climate change effects.

Estuary:

An estuary is defined as a partially enclosed coastal body of water, which is either permanently or periodically open to the sea, and within which there is mixture of seawater with freshwater derived from land drainage.

Lagoon:

A coastal lagoon is a shallow, coastal body of water, separated from the ocean by a barrier. This barrier can be formed by a coral reef, barrier islands, a sand bar or less frequently, rocks. The depth of a lagoon seldom exceeds a few meters.


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