Conservation

PROTECTING THE WESTERN CAPE’S ESTUARIES FOR BIRDS AND PEOPLE

Posted on the 9th December 2015

PROTECTING THE WESTERN CAPE’S ESTUARIES FOR BIRDS AND PEOPLE
Cape Town, 7 December 2015:Estuaries constitute one of South Africa’s most productive, but threatened habitats. While well-known for their rich biodiversity and the essential services they provide; including water purification, flood attenuation, fish nursery grounds and recreational opportunities, they remain at risk from a growing number of threats. Threats, including encroaching development, intensifying human disturbance and overexploitation have caused significant degradation of this important habitat. Whilst upstream, freshwater inflows vital to the health and maintenance of estuaries have been siphoned off or polluted.
A new BirdLife South Africa project isfocusing attention on three of South Africa’s most valuable, but vulnerable estuaries. The sites, the Berg River Estuary at Velddrif on the West Coast, and the Klein River Estuary and Bot-Kleinmond Estuarine system near Hermanus, are some of our country’s most important estuaries for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity dependent on these natural ecosystems.

BirdLife Overberg members at Meer-en-See, the Bot
Wild horses at Rooisand, Botriver Estuary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


All three estuaries are Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs); places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity. Supportingpopulations of several threatened bird species, significant populations of congregatory waterbirds, as well as fish, these estuaries are some of the most valuable in the country for nature conservation. If managed appropriately,these estuaries’ rich birdlife and their natural aestheticsprovide substantial tourism and recreational potential. They are productive fisheries and vital as nurseries for juvenile fish, many species of which form the basis of employment for the local communities, as well as being fundamental to supplying the wider commercial fishing industry.
In spite of this, all three estuaries currently have little or no formal protection, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to a multitude of threats. Funded by WWF South Africa’s Elizabeth Harding Bequest, BirdLife South Africa’s new Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project seeks formal protection and sustained conservation action for these sites. The project will explore various tools for formal protected area expansion to combat the environmental issues being faced by the landowners and users of these estuaries and to help preventactivities that could damage them. It is hoped that theseformal protected areadesignations will provide benefits for the private landowners involved, including a legal framework, incentives and political backing for the conservation and sustainable use of these estuaries.

Dawn at the Bergriver Estuary, Velddrif
Onrus River Estuary, Hermanus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The project was launched in July and the project manager, Dr Giselle Murison, has begun meetings with farmers and other stakeholders in theestuaries and wider catchments areas. The success of the project is dependent on recognising and incorporating the needs of the farmers and other land users inits development, to generate the kind of positive collaboration necessary for a more productive and sustainable landscape in the future. The existing Estuary Management Forums and Conservancies which comprise key stakeholders concerned with the conservation and wise-use of the estuaries and their catchments have provided invaluable platforms from which to launch this ambitious project.Working together, the Western Cape Estuaries Conservation Project seeks to achieve protection for these estuaries, whilst also maintaining their important role in supporting the local economyof the fynbos biome.
For further information please contact:
Giselle Murison at giselle.murison@birdlife.org.za or Dale Wright at dale.wright@birdlife.org.za. 

Dr Gizelle Murison addressing BLO monthly meeting
Sunset cruise on Kleinriver Estuary, Stanford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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