Protecting our marine life

Our oceans serve as a vast, but increasingly limited natural resource and South Africa as a developing country needs to utilise marine resources sustainably. Together, we need to create public awareness of the state of our oceans and coastal environments in order to promote sustainable use and conservation for the benefit of present and future generations.

Did you know?

South Africa is nestled between 2 different ocean currents:

  1. the warm Agulhas current which is rich in ocean biodiversity, but doesn’t contain large fish stocks.
  2. the cold Benguela system that supports large fisheries such as those focused on the small pelagic (anchovy and sardine) and the demersal (hake) stocks.

These currents, in addition to the cold southern oceans, are key drivers of South African climate and rainfall conditions.

Oceans are also the primary producer of moisture in the atmosphere which in turn produces, plays a critical role in shaping the socio-economic activities in South Africa and the Western Cape agriculture sector in particular.

Facts about our oceans

The vast oceans across the world:

  • generates most of the oxygen we breathe,
  • helps feed us,
  • regulates our climate,
  • is the primary producer of moisture to the atmosphere, which leads to rain,
  • cleans the water we drink, and
  • global trade is dominated by sea transport.

How can we optimise these opportunities?

The oceans are a vast natural resource and as a developing country, we need to make use of the ocean’s resources sustainably while considering the following:

  • The fishing industry is of great socio-economic importance in the Western Cape: it creates income for small-scale fishermen, and provides food and income for subsistence fishing communities. 
  • Larger fishing companies also fish in the surrounding waters of the Western Cape, which contributes to the local economy. The Western Cape also further relies on the state of its pristine beaches and coastline to encourage and sustain our flourishing tourism industry.
  • We need to ensure that fishing doesn't exploit fish stocks.
  • We need to also make sure that our coastlines are free of pollution.
  • Find out which species of fish are okay to consume by checking the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) list.

South African Hope Spots

According to the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), Hope Spots are special conservation areas that are critical to the health of the ocean.

Networks of Hope Spots maintain biodiversity, provide a carbon sink, generate life-giving oxygen, preserve critical habitat and allow low-impact activities like ecotourism to thrive. They’re good for the ocean, which means they’re good for us. 

Read more about why South Africa’s Hope Spots are so unique.

What you and your family can do to ensure the health of our oceans:

  • Reduce your plastic consumption. The most frequently collected items during beach cleanups are made of plastic, rather purchase reusable shopping bags, water bottles and utensils, which also saves you money in the long term.
  • Make informed seafood choices. Keep a copy of the sustainable seafood guide with you which indicates which species are green, orange or red.
    • Green means you can buy these species legally,
    • Orange means that the  species is vulnerable or threatened, and
    • Red means that these species numbers have collapsed and it’s therefore illegal to buy, sell and consume that species.
  • Get rid of chemicals properly. Never pour chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil or paint into the drain or toilets. Check with your municipality's household hazardous waste programme to properly dispose or recycle chemicals and keep them out of rivers and oceans.
  • Choose environmentally friendly detergents and household cleaners or make your own. Besides being better for your own health, these products are safer for the environment since what goes down the drain can end up in our oceans.
  • Find out about the practices of your beachside retreat. Before you stay in a hotel on the coast, ask staff what happens to their sewage and swimming pool water, and if they source their restaurant fish from sustainable sources.
  • Find out the source of your food. Buying local, organic food reduces your carbon footprint, supports the local economy and reduces the amount of pesticides and fertilisers that end up, not only in your stomach, but as run-off in rivers and oceans, too.
  • Plant indigenous plant species in your garden. Reducing the amount of grass for your lawn by planting indigenous shrubs and flower beds will provide a better habitat for birds and other wildlife and will require far less water and fertiliser, which can seep into the oceans.
  • Keep your beach visit clean. When visiting the beach, stay off fragile sand dunes, take your trash with you and don't disturb or remove plants, birds and wildlife so that others can enjoy these treasures too.

Celebrating our oceans

The province has also rolled-out a plan to do public activity driven campaigns.

The Two Oceans Aquarium in collaboration with the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Developmental Planning (DEA&DP) will have a special outreach programme for selected schools throughout the month.

Through this partnership DEA&DP and the Two Oceans Aquarium aim to engage learners in coastal management issues as well as create a greater sense of awareness and appreciation for our sea animals and marine environment as well as the need to protect our oceans and resources for future generations. 

If you would like Oceans in Motion to visit your school, please complete the form on the Two Oceans Aquarium website or call 021 418 3823 or fax them on 086 7437 858.

To find out how you can get involved in making our beaches clean, visit Cape Town Beach Clean-up, an initiative that gets volunteers together every first Saturday of the month to clean up our beaches. 

The content on this page was last updated on 6 October 2017