Whether you live inland or along South Africa’s coastline, conservation of our ocean should be a priority. 

This is the message highlighted by passionate maritime conservationist Judy Mann.

Judy, who was recently appointed as the first female CEO of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) based in Durban, is using her new status to gear the public into action.

â??The impacts of people, regardless of whether they live in a city thousands of kilometres from the sea or on a boat on the ocean surface, are affecting the oceans in ways that are only now starting to become evident,â? said the concerned former Oceanographic Research Institute scientist.

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Saturday 17 September is International Coastal Clean-up Day

The worldâ??s attention will be upon all things marine during the month of September in light of International Coastal Clean-up Day, which takes place on Saturday 17 September and International Maritime Day which takes place later this month.

Both initiatives aim to restore a natural oceanic ecosystem, promote clean waterways, a clean ocean as well as safety of life at sea – not just on a single day but every day throughout the year.

So what’s the big deal?

Not only do the oceans cover most of the earthâ??s surface, over 75% of all known animal species are found in the marine environment. 

Currents in our oceans regulate the temperature of our planet and the world oceans generate more oxygen than all of the worldâ??s forests.

Which means that every breath we take is courtesy of the ocean, says Judy.

Pollution, overfishing, destruction of coastal ecosystems, and other harmful practices are amongst some of the threats already affecting the oceans.

Climate change is not a new concept – the only difference is that there is now a scientific consensus that anthropogenic (human-caused) impacts are significantly changing the planet at an alarming rate.

Apart from mass marine extinction, which could happen in our lifetime, our oceans face ‘dead zones’ (hypoxia), increased temperatures and acidification.

Not too late to turn the tide of destruction

But, itâ??s not too late to turn the tide of destruction, says Judy.

An immediate reduction in CO² emissions, a dramatic reduction in fishing in overexploited species, the establishment of a comprehensive and representative system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity and the strict control of nutrient and pollution inputs into the marine environment will all help our oceans to regain their capacity to sustain life â?? both within the water and for us, on land, she says.

And this is in line with the mission and vision of SAAMBR in developing all aspects of its conservation work â?? research, education and spurring the public into action. Says Judy; â??With decisive action and strong commitment from concerned people, the oceans will survive, and planet earth will remain habitable for human beings and a rich diversity of other life forms.â?

Judy’s tips to conserve the ocean:

  • Electricity in South Africa comes from burning coal and burning coal releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, leading to climate change. Save energy – just switch it off.

  • The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) helps us to select our seafood wisely – SMS the kind of fish or seafood you want to buy to 079 499 8795. A return message will indicate if your selection is a good one for our oceans. Make your voice heard: complain to the management of restaurants and retailers if you see them selling endangered fish.

  • Think about what you eat and where it comes from. Wise food selection makes a difference to our planet. Buy local products that are sustainably produced. Support Meat Free Monday, as livestock have a greater environmental impact than vegetable crops.

  • The supply of fresh water on our planet is finite: and South Africa is also a dry country. Water can be recycled but we cannot make any more water. Save water by fixing dripping taps, installing low-flow showerheads and taking shorter showers. Not only will you be conserving water â?? but you will be saving energy and money too.

  • Plastic pollution in our oceans is threatening many different animals from albatrosses to turtles, dolphins and seals. Use alternatives to plastic products whenever possible â?? e.g. buy food in glass, paper or cardboard containers. If you do use plastic â?? use it more than once and then make sure that you recycle it.

  • While we know that our oceans face enormous challenges â?? we need to stay positive. Letâ??s focus on the everyday things that we can do, always remembering that each one of us, working together, can make a big difference.