STATEMENT BY THE KWAZULU-NATAL MEC FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TOURISM & ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS: HON.MEC,MR RAVI PILLAY, (MPP)
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs:Hon.MEC, Mr. Ravi Pillay, (MPP)
The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board provides safety bathers against shark attack at 37 beaches between Richards Bay and Port Edward. This effort is accomplished by fishing for sharks directly off the beaches, using large-mesh gillnets or baited drumlines or both, thereby reducing the likelihood of a dangerous shark encountering humans. The introduction of bather protection gear in the province of KwaZulu-Natal has lessened the occurrence of unprovoked shark attack at protected beaches by 100%.
Beach tourism is an essential and most accessible form of leisure that our province has to offer. In any given year, our beaches attracts millions of people from all over the globe.
This is evidenced by the fact that the large percentage of all the people who visited our province also took some time off to enjoy the beauty of our beaches while in previous years, huge percent of all the people who spent their holiday in our province also visited our beaches. This is because of the simple reason that our beaches are one of the safest and cleanest in the world
It is because of this motive that, our government took a well-considered decision to implement practical and long term measures to ensure that our beaches are more than up to the task of providing a safe, enjoyable and unforgettable experience. The task to ensure the safety of bathers on our beaches is led by one of our public entities and world leader in beach safety, the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board.
The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB) has proven that it is fully prepared to carry out its mandate to safeguard bathers against shark attacks. Every morning officials from the Sharks Board visit our nets to service them and ensure that they are always in good condition to safeguard the lives of our bathers and prevent shark attacks.
Beach tourism in the Province is a major attraction, which is only made possible through the activities of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board in providing public confidence in the safety of KZN beaches against shark attacks. The Province of KwaZulu-Natal has identified tourism as a strategic pillar in its quest to deal decisively with the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment. Statistically, the KZN Province commands a lion’s share of the national domestic tourism numbers and a significant share of international tourism numbers, largely because of the safety of our protected beaches. This is thanks to the excellent work done by KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB) in keeping our tourists safe from shark-related incidents. The annual contribution of tourism to the economy of KZN is approximately R10bn and employs 200,000 people. Although not all is attributable to coastal tourism, the majority of infrastructure in the province is associated with coastal resorts. The cost of the KZN Sharks Board operations is less than 1% of the revenue generated by tourism in the province making it an extremely cost-effective programme.
Sadly, tourism industry has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. KwaZulu-Natal Tourism is compiling a Tourism Recovery Plan in an attempt to limit the damage suffered by the industry due to the pandemic and lockdown. For this plan to succeed the KZN Sharks Board bather protection becomes even more critical. Without the KZN Sharks Board, the recovery of the tourism sector would be impossible, resulting in economic disaster.
It has been noted that, most of the people in the Province are hard hit by the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment, Sharks Board has focused increasingly on vulnerable groups such as youth, women and people with disability. In response to the Covid 19 pandemic, the entity has accelerated its programme of making its educational and information materials widely accessible in digital format. The entity’s mandate goes beyond the guarantee of safety to our tourists whilst bathing in the sea. It also includes marine research and development, thereby contributing immensely to the job creation, economic development and transformation in the Province.
However, having said this, we also want to stress the fact that in ensuring the safety of the bathers, we will also make sure that we take due care of environmental issues. As we have done over the years, we will ensure that all live animals caught in the nets are released. It has always been our guiding philosophy as the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board that while it is important that we should protect bathers from Shark attacks, however, we should not do this in a manner that has an adverse and negative effect on the environment.
We have always been mindful of the fact that the natural resources that we have been entrusted with should be taken care of in order to ensure that they don’t only benefit us but also benefit future generations. Indeed, the sustainability of our competitive edge when it comes to tourism hinges directly on how we take care of our natural resources while maximising their ability to attract tourists.
All of us in our individual capacity and all stakeholders in our province have a role to play. Critically, KZNSB enables us to up the ante in securing the safety of our bathers which will ultimately ensure that we can compete with the world’s best beaches on an equal footing. This can only mean the improvement of our competitive edge against other international tourist destinations. Pointedly, we must stress that the beach safety plan KZNSB has in place complements the broader beach safety strategy which involves lifeguards, national sea rescue, police, and tourist ambassadors. It must also be stressed that ultimately beach safety is the responsibility of each and every individual.
Within this context and against this background, we congratulate the KZNSB, for despite many challenges that it has still continued to achieve important milestones.
Hon. MEC, Mr Ravi Pillay, MPP
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism &