Kouga Municipality has received the go-ahead to breach the mouth of the Seekoei estuary at Jeffreys Bay.
This follows an application by the municipality to the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) that emergency action be taken to help save fish trapped in the salty waters of the estuary.
Kouga Community Services Portfolio Councillor Daniel Benson said large numbers of fish had been dying in the estuary.
“The water has been evaporating rapidly because of hot temperatures and strong winds.
“Combined with this, there has been almost no inflow of fresh water because of the drought and numerous farm dams that trap water in the catchment area,” he said.
“This has caused the salinity of the estuary to increase to more than twice that of sea water. Estuarine life simply cannot survive under those circumstances.”
He said the Seekoei Estuary Management Committee would be meeting as a matter of urgency this week to discuss the way forward now that the green light had been given for the breach.
“Breaching the mouth will allow sea water to flow into the estuary and help decrease the salinity of the estuary water,” he said. “The challenge is that an enormous amount of sand will have to be removed for enough sea water to flow into the estuary and make a difference. This could take weeks and the costs will be significant.”
He said the Committee had also been discussing possible alternative solutions, including capturing the fish and releasing them into the ocean.
“The situation is dire, but we are exploring every possible avenue to help mitigate the crisis.”
He again warned residents not to eat dead fish collected from the estuary.