The proposed sea-based Aquaculture Development Zone (ADZ), in Saldanha Bay, in the Western Cape, has been granted an environmental authorisation.
The zone will enhance sustainable aquaculture expansion in Saldanha Bay and contribute towards the realisation of the aquaculture aspirations of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy in terms of job creation, increased primary production, increased gross domestic product contribution and inclusive growth of the sector, the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries said this week.
In line with the environmental authorisation, key mitigation and management measures will be undertaken to alleviate any risks identified.
One such measure is the establishment of an Aquaculture Management Committee (AMC), comprised of relevant government departments, to oversee the management, monitoring and compliance of the environmental authorisation.
To ensure transparency and accountability, a consultative forum (CF) will also be established to create a platform for interested and affected parties to engage with government departments and discuss environmental monitoring results.
Initially, about 1 800 ha of sea-space had been earmarked for aquaculture development in the bay; however, this has been reduced by about 50% to about 884 ha, or about 10% of the bay, as a result of stakeholder inputs and other user needs.
Interactions between users will be monitored continuously at the AMC and CF.
Other mitigation measures include the placement of buffer areas around sensitive parts, including marine protected areas, reefs, wrecks and sensitive visual receptors.
In terms of increased aquaculture production, a precautionary and phased approach will be followed, with regular monitoring. The extensive monitoring of the ADZ will be completed according to relevant international standards.
Aquaculture has been practiced in Saldanha Bay since the 1980s and it is one of the primary locations for the culture of key commercial cold water species such as oysters, mussels and salmon.
Previous studies indicate that one of the fundamental challenges in realising the potential of aquaculture in Saldanha Bay was the lack of an enabling regulatory environment.
The Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy programme provides the platform to create this environment through increasing access to land and water space, as well as improving access to markets and funding.
As a result, there is significant interest from industry to expand current operations and to start new projects in the area.
To date, 15 of the 35 registered Operation Phakisa aquaculture projects are located in Saldanha Bay, with the majority of these marine aquaculture projects run by small, medium-sized and microenterprises in the oyster and mussel subsector.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana says the ADZ has the potential to meet the Operation Phakisa production target and increase local employment, with 2 500 direct permanent jobs on offer.
It also has the potential to increase investment into the area to R400-million and the estimated direct revenue at full production could be about R800-million a year.