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Minister Barbara Creecy: Custodians of Professional hunting and conservation annual general meeting

24 Nov 2021

Speech by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy, on the occasion of the Custodians of Professional Hunting and Conservation  Annual General Meeting

Esteemed guests

Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed an honour and privilege for me to join you during your Annual General Meeting today.

I think it is important to first acknowledge that we live in a rich and beautiful country with superlative biological diversity. In fact, amongst the top 17 mega-biodiverse countries in the world we are ranked number 3, after Brazil and Indonesia.  This important heritage that has been gifted to us is protected in section 24(b) of our Constitution which states and I quote:

“to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and environmental degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, biodiversity and ecosystem services underpin economic growth, sustainable development and human wellbeing as a whole in South Africa and the African Region. We understand that ecosystems provide us with services such as fresh air and water, climate regulation and water purification.

We also understand that our biodiversity is a significant source of employment and economic activity. The National Biodiversity Assessment Report (SANBI et al NBA report 2018) confirmed that South Africa’s has more than 418 000 people employed in biodiversity-related sectors with huge potential to grow even further in the forseable future. The same study estimated that the biodiversity sector contributes at least four percent to the country’s GDP.

Prior to the covid 19 pandemic, South Africa’s hunting industry generated R2 billion from foreign hunters and nearly eleven and a half billion rand from the domestic hunting market.

Our biodiversity economy has been severely affected by the Covid 19 pandemic and the impact this has had on both domestic and international travel and tourism. While we are seeing a gradual recovery, we remain concerned about the impact ongoing resurgences of the pandemic will have on this sector.

Of equal concern is the fact that we know that many ecosystems in the country and the region are facing severe degradation leading to a decline in biodiversity and the impairment of ecosystem functions and services including fresh water provisioning, climate regulation, disease control, and ecotourism.

Accordingly as government and industry we have a common concern to work together to overcome these medium and long term challenges. In May next  year, we hope to see the adoption at COP 15 at Kuming in  China,  of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This framework presents an important opportunity to reach consensus at an international policy level on how we should address biodiversity loss and through conservation and restoration efforts, avail nature benefits to our people and future generations.

South Africa’s approach at Kuming will support  the balanced treatment of the objectives of the Convention on Biodiversity: namerly Conservation, Sustainable use and fair and equitable benefit sharing. Accordingly we will advance a position that promotes the protection of ecosystems, species and genetic diversity while meeting human needs and pursuing equitable benefit sharing.

In this sense we believe that if Kuming lives up to its aspiration to create a “New Deal for Nature and People”, it must  give a voice to the aspirations of people around the world for a global society in which economic, social, cultural and environmental concerns are addressed in a truly holistic way.

Now I am raising these important developments in the multilateral domain because your industry has in my view a significant role to play in all three aspects of Kuming.

One of the important  targets under discussion is a proposal that by 2030 that across the globe thirty percent of the sea and thirty percent of the land should be under protection. There is an emerging consensus that this represents a global target rather than a country target, although there is a general expectation that each country will make a significant contribution.

In our country, we currently have sixteen percent of our land and five percent of our sea under conservation. Our long term Protected Areas Expansion Strategy is to increase our conservation estate by about half a percent per annum.

Areas that are considered to be part of the protected areas estate are given a registered status if they meet certain conservationn standards. Those standards go with a commitment by the owners that they will maintain those standards into the future, including effectively functioning ecosystems. 

Your industry can play an increasing role in assisting our country to meet the 30x30 target if land owners sign up to conserving their estates according to the required ecological principles. Across the globe an increasing percentage of the conservation estate is in privatre hands.

The second area where I believe your industry can play an important role is through partnering with emerging farmers to transform the industry and support new entrents to run their businesses on sound ecological principles.

I remain firmly of the belief that the key to achieving sustainable conservation in our country lies in overcoming the  major barriers rural communities face in access and benefit sharing in the biodiversity economy.  I therefore ask your association to take the national transformation agenda into your fold and lead the charge to  empower and support Previously Disadvantage Indivduals and communities to participate meaningfully in the wildlife and hunting value chains.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I finish speaking,  allow me to make a few remarks about the High Level Panel report and its implications for your industry.  As you are all no doubt aware, The High Level Panel report found that, despite South Africa’s reputation as a global leader in conservation, there are still reported incidents and perceptions of irresponsible, unethical and unsustainable conservation practices in the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros, especially in terms of animal welfare and well-being, that negatively affect the country’s conservation reputation. The panel was of the opinion that these perceptions do not bode well for the country’s international standing and development objectives.

Now it is important to emphasise again today that the recommendations made by the Panel are not against hunting, or building a thriving hunting industry in South Africa. Rather, the HLP identified the need for South Africa to be repositioned and promoted as a destination of choice for legal, regulated and responsible hunting of the five iconic species, recognising that this supports and promotes conservation and rural livelihoods.

Flowing from the report we have put out a policy position paper for public comment and we are also developing an overarching policy in the form of a White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of biological and genetic resources. It is my belief that this will greatly contribute to an inclusive, transparent and transformative wildlife, industry that would guarantee a thriving future for people and nature for generations to come.  

Allow me to say that I was excited when I learned that your mission, is to “promote only ethical and responsible conservation-based hunting principles, such as hunting only under fair chase conditions”. Your mission, thus, epitomises the kind of future the hunting fratenity should aspire for. 

Accordingly, as I conclude, I feel comfortable to  call on your association to join me in repositioning South Africa as a global leader in biodiversity conservation and ecologically sustainable use, but even more significantly in joining our Department in building a responsible and humane hunting industry, that is resilient, inclusive, and that benefits all South Africans, including communities that live within and or adjacent to conservation areas.

Now is the time for stakeholders in the authentic hunting industry to step forward and partner with the Department in defining the “authentic experience,” identifying growth opportunities, and developing  and implementing  new standards.

I wish you great and productive deliberations in your AGM!

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