Aliwal Shoal Report April 2011 - Basie Ackermann

PLEASE sign the petition on the home page of this site, and forward to as many people as possible. Enough is enough.
Sappi Saiccor single handedly destroyed otherwise perfect fish bearing conditions the WHOLE OF APRIL, and it’s still continuing as I am writing this. Read below to see why... (and this is not a ruse to make you the my reader no 5.)

General conditions

Sappi’s indiscriminate raping of our ocean with their pollution became glaringly obvious this month, even to the point where there was thick dirty foam being washed up on the beaches at Umkomaas and Scottburgh on the 20th. To their embarrassment and our detriment, the reason for this was a constant north south onshore current for the first two weeks of April. With a current, the effluent sits in a thick black “road” – more like a six lane highway – and we had crystal water of 25 metres plus on the inside and outside of this band. The one day (16th) I actually measured the width of this as I drove across it, 1.33km wide, and on that day it stretched past Pennington, a good 20km south of the source, and 30 metres deep.
We managed a few (literally two) days of excellent diving conditions with loads of fish, but it was a few stolen hours and just a matter of time before the pollution moved in again. At times it obliterated the Shoal, changing 25 metres of Mozambique quality water into 3metres of black, smelly, frothy muck.
At least this situation was still tenable, as we still had a gambler’s chance of getting the Shoal clean, seeing that the onshore current was still going.

Then the current stopped. Game over. Within a day this muck mixed with the crystal water and spread all over the ocean, as far down as Hibberdene (I dived in it myself on the 4th May) which is only 40 odd km away from the pipe.  10 km offshore, same thing and all the way to the bottom, not just on the surface. Pollution? What pollution? What was black concentrated effluent became the “green” or “old” effluent. I call it secondary effluent, and have experienced its effect on clean water hundreds of times over the past 20 years on the Shoal. The spin doctors at Sappi deny there is such a thing; they imply that it is cold upwelling that causes this. Ja right, if you call 26 degrees cold, and no east or current to bring it in.  Fisherman, divers and spearos complained and mumbled. The 3-5m visibility excited no one. For the last three weeks we’ve had basically no current, not doing anything in moving this pollution off, so it sits. We wait and Sappi carries on with impunity, dumping industrial waste into the ocean.

To add insult to our injury, as mentioned, the water was 26 degrees Celsius all the way to the bottom. The fisherman managed to initially catch some Wahoo, cuda and Tuna, but catches dwindled, as no self respecting fish would swim in that pollution.

So what would have been a cooking month was ruined. Sappi sucks, in my opinion.

Fish

Like I said, lots around before we got kicked off the ocean.
The first week saw some donkey crocs coming out on skis on backline. Now if you are picturing the offspring as a result of interbreeding between a farm animal and an amphibian, emerging from the sea on sets of skis, you would be hundred percent right. Go tell your friend in the white jacket.

Biggest 38kg, a 35kg one and loads of ‘smaller’ ones in their twenties. Good cuda run on the south coast this year. The Shoal itself produced a lot of shoal sized cuda, swimming in shoals of up to 50 fish and that is a lot of usage of the word shoal in one sentence.
On the 9th York and his mates on ‘Dug Out’ hit pay dirt. With the effluent thick on the inside edge of Aliwal, they had cooking visibility on the outside and was rewarded with Wahoo of 30-40 strong filing past. They boated 7, from 14-20kg, and lost more than that. Bokkoors is ‘n lelike ding.  

On the 13th and 14th we managed to out fox the pollution, and the results were sweet. 20 metre visibility, light north south, 27 degrees water temperature. Fish were loose, shoal of Wahoo under the surface, on the bottom shoals of cuda, with shoals of Zambezi escorting them, waiting for an easy meal. We let the cuda swim past, believe it or not, and concentrated on the Wahoo, thinking that the sharks won’t be as keen on bigger fish. Wrong.  The sharks were crazy. So crazy in fact that we gave up diving eventually, even though the Wahoo were still filing through. It was just becoming too dangerous. Alistair and I were both charged by Zambezi at full tilt, propelling off the bottom straight up with jaws open and back arched. And we didn’t even have fish near us.  Warren repeatedly bumped one off that was trying to snack him on the surface. Not well.  Their behaviour was rather strange (Alistair’s and Warren’s too), as if they perceived us as a threat to their food source. And there were at least 6-8 sharks around at any time, all between 2-3.5metres. Not the ones you want to swap dentist stories with.
Over the two days we ended up with 11 Wahoo, all teenagers, a couple of small cuda and three full blown charges of open jawed Zambezi sharks. Lost a whole lot to sharks, with one even leaving his teeth marks on the barrel and muzzle of my gun. Exciting stuff, but sadly the last diveable day.

On the 16th it was all over, with the day I recorded the 1.33km wide band of effluent, and the rest of the month was ruined. Did I mention why? Oh I did? Ok.

 

Enjoy our oceans and boycott Sappi products.
Basie