Melanie Gosling

Environment Writer

PLANS to build a controversial fish farm 2km offshore of a popular tourist beach in Port Elizabeth have been turned down by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

The proposal, which had drawn strong opposition from a variety of sectors, was that the fish farm would be built by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Molewa has sent the Fisheries Department back to the drawing board to find a different site for the fish farm.

This comes after the Department of Environmental Affairs gave the proposed fish farm the go-ahead last year in spite of strong opposition from the public, academics and tourism officials.

The department’s decision led to a flood of notices from the public that they were to take the decision on appeal to the minister, which they are permitted to do under the National Environmental Management Act.

The public also set up an online petition opposing the proposed fish farm being built off the popular Summerstrand beach. More than 17 000 people signed the petition.

Molewa said this week that she had reached her decision after taking into consideration information in the project file and after consultations with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism and Business Chambers, the Airports Company of South Africa, tourism stakeholders and with those who had lodged appeals.

Several of those who had lodged appeals said they were not opposed to fish farming, but were opposed to a fish farm in the current location.

Key issues among those who appealed were the inadequacy of public consultation prior to Environmental Affairs’ granting permission for the fish farm to go ahead; that the department did not have sufficient information on which to base its decision; the negative effects a fish farm would have on tourism, the tourism economy, international sporting events, water quality, local fishing and on the seascape.

“During the appeal process, it became evident that the appellants were not opposed to aquaculture development in the provinces, but that they opposed the development at its present location, which is approximately 2km offshore from the popular tourist beach area in Port Elizabeth,” Molewa said.

“Parties consulted had requested that the applicant consider an alternative site for the proposed project.”

DAFF had originally proposed five different sites in which to build the fish farm. Molewa ruled that DAFF must undertake a detailed assessment of the feasibility of a different location for the fish farm in Algoa Bay.

DAFF had agreed to do so.

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