Dead whale, killer plastic & mysterious condoms at Cape Point

Early Dec 2019

Ostriches near the Atlantic shorline Cape of Good Hope Reserve

Not far from some ostriches hanging out on the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve's western coast:

dead whale at Cape of Good Hope Reserve

Was it once part of the super-groups of humpbacks reportedly gathering further up the coast? It had flesh-wounds near its tail - a sign of it perhaps having fallen victim to octopus traps, which according to the Minister of Environment and Fisheries, "have resulted in the untimely and cruel deaths of these magnificent creatures."

And so octopus' untimely slaughter is, however, presumably ok?

weeping-vomiting-dollar emoji

But who knows if the dead whale was the work of octopus trapping? It could have been hit by a vessel, or been poisoned by plastic.

fishing traps at Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve

Abandoned, lost or dumped nylon nets, ropes, plastic crates and fishing baskets make up the single biggest destructive element of plastic waste in the ocean. And at the Cape of Good Hope Reserve you can now add condoms.

Condom litter at Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve 2019

I should have known when I first started seeing them six months back. They're part of most local illegal sea-hunter's tool-kit. Tide torn and faded, or some still in their packs, they are to be spotted along the Overnight Trail. There were even a few up on hill-paths or scattered deep on the fynbos plains - so they couldn't be shipwreck or lost-cargo flotsam. Strewn near the milkwood tunnels near Gifkommetjie a 20-pack lay washed up on the beach. NOT FOR SALE on each sachet.

Abalone poacher's condom

Like this ravished emoji there are hundreds more.

Still, the penny didn't drop even when on another walk up to Kanonkop a week later we came across a broken suitcase under a bush with a damp wetsuit spilling from it. Clearly it was an abalone hunter's, possibly dumped in haste while on the run from law-enforcement.

abandoned rubber dinghy olifants point

Further evidence of increased abalone hunting activity at the reserve was one of their wrecked rubber ducks which has joined the USS Thomas Tucker's rusted remains on the Olifants Point rocks.

This week in the reserve, on sighting another condom patch, a local President's Award hiker reminded me that perlemoen divers keep their phones waterproofed in tied up condoms.

A SANParks employee told me that the poachers get brought in as day visitors, are dropped off somewhere remote, and when it's dark head into the water to do their plunder. As the reserve is not entirely covered by phone signal, they have to hike higher in search of it so as to arrange their transport out.

This is a blind spot authorities have towards the fishing industry. If any other were to litter the sea and shoreline like fishing does there would be bad publicity and fines. Like whenever an oil spill threatens wildlife.

It's not that plastic cooldrink bottles, broken dolls, old rubber boots and other stuff aren't increasingly littering the shore. But much waste litter at the Cape of Good Hope is fishing flotsam.

It isn't just an eye-sore. It kills. As it's designed to. Mercilessly, indiscriminately, and with careless messy efficiency.

Unidentified device found on the Cape shore

As one shoreline mystery was cleared up, another appeared. This little improvised device.

Any ideas?

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