Sunday, 17 February 2019

An estimated 9% of the 458 fish species assessed in Lake Malawi are at high risk of extinction. This is worrying, not least because the lake, and the fish species that occupy it, are very unique.

With more than 1000 fish species, Lake Malawi has more distinct fish species than any other lake in the world. New species are discovered regularly and some scientists believe that the lake may contain more than 2000 species. As a result of this exceptional diversity the lake is considered a global biodiversity treasure because almost all of the species that it contains occur nowhere else on the planet.

Lake Malawi is immense. Located between Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique, it covers an area of more than 29,000 square kilometres, and holds 7% of the world’s available surface freshwater. Despite this Lake Malawi is under threat. Human activities, like deforestation in the lake’s catchment area and over-fishing, are taking their toll on the lake. A recent assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed 9% of its evaluated species as “endangered”.

This is worrying not only from a biodiversity perspective, but also because this is one of Africa’s poorest regions and people rely on the fish for their livelihoods and for food.

The reasons

What happens on land affects the lake. Increasing agricultural activity in the lake’s basin has caused soil erosion and sediments end up in the water. This affects water clarity, light penetration and, on settling, it smothers plants and algae – ultimately, harming the food resources on which fish depend.

Trading fish at Cape Maclear, Lake Malawi. Shutterstock/Dietmar Temps

Over-fishing has led to less diversity in the kinds of fish that are caught and has reduced the amount of fish caught by individual fishers. This is particularly true in the larger, more valuable, species.

The worst hit fish species are migratory endemic cyprinids, such as the critically endangered Ntchila. These fish migrate into rivers to spawn and so depend on the health of rivers that feed into the lake for their survival. Once abundant, this species has almost disappeared mainly because of the degradation of river catchments and sedimentation that smothers the gavel beds that they need for spawning.

The Chambo, a species of endemic tilapia, is also under pressure. This fish is highly prized as a food fish but, because of unsustainable fishing practices, catches have plummeted. Today they are less than 10% of their historic high in the late 1980s when more than 10 million kgs of Chambo were landed by small scale fishermen every year.

Chambo. Shutterstock/John Lindsay-Smith

As a result, fisheries increasingly focus on smaller, less valuable species to sustain catches. When these smaller species were also eventually depleted, fishers were forced to go further offshore where it’s harder for fishermen to catch fish and those that they do are of lower value. This puts a severe strain on fishers, many of whom are already some of the poorest members of society.

Unfortunately it’s very difficult for the riparian countries, with their large population of relatively poor people who are locked into a natural resource-based economy, to reduce their dependency on the fisheries. And so, the overriding cause for all these effects is the poverty of the lake shore communities.

Freshwater crisis

Freshwaters – and the animal and plant life that they contain – are in a state of crisis across the world. The fundamental driver of their degradation is the growth of human activity due to population growth, increased industrialisation and increased consumption of natural resources over the last century. As a result, the current rates of population decline in freshwater species are twice as high as those reported for marine and terrestrial life.

But there’s hope. In Malawi, where fish and fisheries are high on the national agenda, initiatives such as the IUCN Red-List assessment and Key Biodiversity Area identification projects which assess the status and distribution of freshwater species, help to guide policy and prioritise conservation actions.The Conversation


Olaf Weyl, Chief Scientist and Research Chair for Inland Fisheries and Freshwater Ecology, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Agriculture
South Africa Mining Minister Gwede Mantashe last week reiterated his intentions to push ahead with efforts to determine whether there would be mining at Xolobeni in the Wild Coast region of the Eastern Cape.
“What we want to do is engage the community of Xolobeni, which we have done,” he said during a media conference at the African Mining Indaba, which took place in Cape Town from February 4 to 7.
“A person made the comment that we are here for the third time. ‘It has never happened, Minister,’ that person said. ‘Ministers used to come here. They get a hard time and they disappear forever. They never come,’” Mantashe said.
“I replied that I want to be here [in Xolobeni] 10 times until the Xolobeni issue is resolved. We cannot have the Xolobeni issue on the table from 2002 until now and keep it hanging all the time … We cannot keep it hanging for more years now.”
Mantashe has mantained that the community of Xolobeni needs mining in order to bring development in the area this despite a court ruling in November that his department must obtain consent from the Xolobeni community before giving mining rights to any mining company seeking to operate there.
Mantashe said that at Xolobeni the process of awarding mining rights had been stopped. “As we sit here today, there is no company that has access to mining.”
Australian company Mineral Commodities, which trades on the Australian Securities Exchange as MRC, has applied for prospecting and mining rights in Xolobeni, but will have to wait until the moratorium on the processing of applications for that area is lifted.
MRC is looking to mine titanium in the area.
It currently operates the Tormin mineral sands mine near Vredendal on the West Coast.
At last week’s mining indaba, Mantashe told journalists that he would visit the Tormin mine: “We are going there to do an on-site inspection of operations, and ask these questions: Is it a compliant company? Is it a good mining company? Does it respect environmental and other requirements?
“It will be a fact-finding visit to Vredendal. This is all part of developing a mechanism to make a decision.”
The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) last week urged Mantashe to take note of MRC’s coordinated campaign of litigation against activists, lawyers and the media to silence criticism of the company and its operations.
“MRC and its subsidiaries have sued community activists, environmental attorneys, a social worker, a journalist and a local West Coast newspaper for defamation claims amounting to more than R9 million,” the CER said.
And, in a letter addressed to Mantashe, the centre’s executive director, Melissa Fourie, wrote that MRC had a track record of noncompliance at the Tormin mine.
With regard to the contribution made by the mining sector to the local economy, Mantashe said he would like to see this increase from 7% of GDP to 10% over the next three to five years. However, he provided no details on how this could happen.
He made mention of a study, conducted by the Council for Geoscience (CGS), whereby a new gold deposit, “which has not been touched”, had been discovered. “Through the work of the CGS, a rich orebody of gold has been discovered to the east of Vredefort, in the Free State.”
In a similar vein, global management consulting firm the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a report on the sidelines of the mining indaba, looking at how to halt the decline in South Africa’s mining sector that has been taking place over the past 20 years.
The report recommends a number of interventions that could potentially result in an extra R71 billion in revenue and save up to 52 000 jobs by 2030.
When it comes to gold, the BCG report recommends that research be conducted into implementing mechanisation. It projects that mechanising the sector could save as many as 22 000 jobs by 2030 – and for platinum, this could save about 4 000 jobs by 2030.
“Our base case, without intervention, could potentially result in a reduction of revenue of R28 billion and the loss of 68 000 jobs by 2030, relative to 2017 levels,” says the report.
According to the BCG’s baseline forecast – used to outline future energy demand under a business-as-usual scenario, and to show where opportunities lie for energy savings and environmental improvement – by 2030, South Africa’s gold output will fall by almost half to just 67 tons, from 137 tons in 2017.
According to the forecast, platinum group metal output is expected to drop by 10% and iron ore output by 64%. Coal production will be maintained, while manganese and chrome output will increase by 2030.
In its upside 2030 scenario, the BCG projects that if platinum and gold mines are mechanised, it will slow down the decline in output. In addition, improved infrastructure will boost the output of manganese, chrome and coal by 2030.
The BCG report examines the state of the mining industry since 2009.
Among its findings are that social indicators in the sector – such as empowerment, wage levels, safety, working conditions, skills advancement and community investments – have improved across the board.
In addition, it says, mineral sales, industry output and industry market capitalisation have all been largely stable since 2009.
However, employment, direct mining investment, the sector’s real GDP contribution and its relative contribution to the local economy have all declined since 2009.
The BCG study has assessed South Africa’s mining competitiveness as weak, citing factors such as poor government regulation, energy costs, the unreliability of energy supply, poor water availability, inefficient logistics, issues with information and communication technology, and difficult labour conditions.
The report identifies growth constraints for most of South Africa’s major minerals.
It also points to rail infrastructure and water constraints in the Waterberg area, in Limpopo, hampering coal mining there.
It points out that iron ore requires large-scale developments to maintain mining, and that rail infrastructure needs to be expanded to allow for greater exports.
The country lags behind many peer countries in terms of exploration and technological innovation.
“South Africa’s spending on exploration is the lowest among leading mining countries. Its share of the global exploration budget … fell from 1.6% in 2009 to 1.1% in 2017.”
In the gold-mining sector, the report finds that South Africa has the highest labour cost-per-ounce produced among the 10 largest gold-producing countries.
In another development, Mantashe announced the state was planning to have separate laws governing the mining and petroleum sectors. Currently, the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act covers both the mining and petroleum industries.
On corruption at the Department of Mineral Resources regional offices, Mantashe said that four regional offices had been audited.
“That’s Mpumalanga, Limpopo, the North West, and the Northern Cape. We are hoping to be able to audit all of them. We are have picked up a number of things.”
“We picked up properties that did not exist…We are serious about uncovering that corruption. In one province a health and safety inspector was caught selling Section 54. We caught him out and you can’t sell safety. That man is no longer in the department now.”
Published in Business
Foreign election observers who are in the country to monitor the 2019 general elections have counseled the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on how to gain the confidence of the voting public in the new dates it announced for the elections.
It would be recalled that INEC had announced the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections from Saturday February 16th to Saturday February 23rd and governorship and state houses of assembly from March 2nd to March 9th just few hours before the commencement of voting on Saturday.
The postponement, according to the electoral body was due logistics and operational challenges.
The observers, including the European Union Election Observation Mission, Economic Community of West African States Election Observation Mission, among others, in a statement after a meeting in Abuja on Saturday, asked INEC to finalise preparations and adhere strictly to the new February 23, 2019 date for the general elections.
They also noted that the suspension of the polls due to logistical and operational challenges had caused disappointment for many, admonishing the commission to provide regular updates and information to the public on its preparations in the coming days and weeks to enhance confidence and trust in the process.
The statement read: “We, the Heads of the international election observation missions and the United Nations present in Nigeria, have taken note of the decision of the INEC to postpone the 2019 general elections due to logistical and operational challenges.
“We urge INEC to use this time to finalise all preparations and ensure that the new election dates are strictly adhered to. We encourage INEC to provide regular updates and information to the public on its preparations in the coming days and weeks to enhance confidence and trust in the process.
“As we continue to closely observe preparations across the country, we stand in solidarity with the people of Nigeria in their desire for credible and peaceful elections.”
Published in World
The President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTs) Mr Ken Ukaoha has said that the postponement of the commencement of the 2019 general elections has cost the country over N140 billion.
Ukaoha stated this in Abuja on Saturday while speaking with reporters, insisting that the postponement would affect the trading sector adversely.
Ukaoha also noted that the postponement would affect the economy adversely in terms of money that the government, political parties and ordinary Nigerians had already expended on logistics and otherwise.
Describing the postponement as appalling and unfortunate, Ukaoha said the development could make the nation become a laughing-stock in among comity of nations.
The NANTs president said: “I am not talking of the manufacturing sector, transporters and the farmers; even workers were asked not to go to work.
“We need to be adequately prepared for elections.
“The loss is monumental if you look at the economic consequences, essentially if you look at the trade, Nigeria depends so much on daily turning of fund through distribution and redistribution of goods and commodity.
“I am telling you that with this calculation I have just done here, we are losing nothing less than 140 billion naira, because all got this information so late.
“If you go round now you will see that the shops are close, so we are losing chunk of money just for this incident.
“We are not talking about the manufacturers and the industrialists because they have all sent their workers away to go and perform their civic duty.
“Farmers did not go to their farms because they want to exercise their franchise. If you do the computation your guess is as good as mine in terms of what the nation is losing, we should learn.”
Published in World

In their natural habitat, the birds vanished into the canopy. It was split-second but fascinating sighting.

To then see the African Grey Parrot caged like a prisoner -- or any other wild creature -- is sickening to the core. I have never understood people who keep exotic pets in cages instead of leaving them in their natural homes. I would love to cage these people and feed them with treats. Maybe then they would value freedom.

Unfortunately, the yen for exotic pets is on the rise -- with tech-savvy traders finding that using social media is easy to market their illegal wares.

It is not limited to the African Grey Parrot but to anything from cheetahs to pangolins caught in the wild.

A report by World Animal Protection and World Parrot Trust titled "Illegal online trade in endangered parrots: A groundbreaking investigation" shows the horrific increase in the trade.

The population of the African Grey Parrot has crashed by between 90 and 99 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

In the international bestseller, Blood River -- Into Africa's Broken Heart by Tim Butcher, about his epic journey following the River Congo in 2000 in the footsteps of the Henry Morton Stanley's 1874 expedition, Mr Butcher describes meeting a man in the forest, dressed in rags, carrying a flock of African Grey Parrot tied to a branch. They are for sale in the city, which would take him days to reach.

The African Grey Parrot is only found in the equatorial rainforest that belts across Africa's waist. Poverty-driven citizens in war-torn countries make the parrot and other creatures easy targets for trade that is illegal.

What makes African Grey Parrots so attractive as pets is their ability to mimic people. Cute and caged, they make for amusing pets.

Online to Sell

The report shows that the online trade is rife with social media used as a marketing tool. Some 84 per cent of the export is from DRC with Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire sharing the rest.

Importers are largely Pakistan, Turkey and Jordan in the lead with China, India, Thailand and others trailing behind, including the North African countries. With little enforcement and lack of tracking systems, it is easy to trade.

One post showed more than 150 African grey parrots for sale online.

The report calls for action by including airlines, technology companies and government agencies to disrupt this trade and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Flora and Fauna regulations to protect the endangered parrot in its natural habitat.

The parrots are largely flown out on commercial flights in terrible conditions, packed as cargo in tightly squeezed cages. Needless to say, the mortality rates are high and many are dead on arrival.

In one incident, on 15 August 2018, a shipment departed Kinshasa, DR Congo via Istanbul, Turkey, arriving in Kuwait two days later. Seized by Customs, the documentation listed a species of bird not on the Cites list. Under Cites, trade in the African Grey Parrot from the wild is illegal.

On the same dates, a shipment departed Kinshasa on Turkish Airlines for Beirut via Istanbul. Over 40 were dead on arrival. One cage photographed clearly shows the Turkish Airline logo.

The list is long. The mortalities high.

Law Enforcement

The finding in the report call for governments to strengthen the regulation of trade in wildlife, and for airlines to act on their commitments through agreements such as the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce, the United for Wildlife Buckingham Palace Declaration, the International Air Transport Association and the Animal Transport Association.

Above all, it needs strong public awareness that life is not to be spent behind bars.


Source: East African

Published in Travel & Tourism
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