Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has emphasised the importance of protecting the oceans to ensure the long-term sustainability of the oceans and marine life.
“We have a responsibility to protect our oceans, as they are vital to the health of our planet. As a nation, we have a responsibility to protect our oceans, and we are committed to working with partners both locally and internationally to ensure the long-term sustainability of our oceans and marine life,” Creecy said on Thursday.
Speaking during the celebration of World Oceans Day at Cape Town Harbour, aboard the SA Agulhas II Research vessel, the Minister noted the crucial role the oceans play in the provision of fresh air, food security and in regulating the climate.
The Minister said it is important to pay urgent attention to the many threats facing the oceans. These include climate change, pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction.
South Africa is in a unique geographic position at the southern tip of Africa. The country is surrounded by the Atlantic, Southern and Indian Oceans.
“Through its long-standing research efforts in Antarctica and Marion Islands, aided by the SA Agulhas II, South Africa has made an important contribution to the scientific understanding of the three oceans and their global impact on marine life and the health of the planet,” the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) said.
The department is leading the process of developing Marine Sector Plans, as part of the Marine Spatial Planning process.
Ten draft Marine Sector Plans have been published for public comment with the aim of promoting the co-existence of different sectors, which include individuals, communities, fishers and the mining sector.
“In an effort to manage competing interests in the marine environment, last year I committed to researching the impact of seismic surveys on the marine environment.
“The department has produced an assessment of international best practice in mitigating impacts of these surveys and are now determining how these can be used on local ocean areas. We are also working with the Petroleum Agency of SA and the Council for Geo Science to map historic records of seismic surveys to determine if any impact was observed during these previous surveys,” Creecy said.
World Oceans Day 2023 was held under the theme, ‘Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing’.
“It is a reminder that despite the fact that the oceans cover most of the Earth, little attention is given to the unprecedented challenges being faced by the seas on which humans rely for a variety of resources, and that it is the collective responsibility of all to protect it,” the DFFE said.
As part of the World Oceans Day celebrations and awareness raising efforts, the department is hosting open days for learners on Thursday and Friday, where they will have an opportunity to learn about the importance of the oceans and the role they play in their daily lives.
“The open days take place on board the SA Agulhas II, which is docked at Cape Town Harbour. The public will have an opportunity to tour the SA Agulhas II on 10 and 11 June 2023, where they will learn more about the work being done by South Africa’s polar and research vessel to monitor, research and protect the oceans and marine life,” the department said.
The DFFE is hosting 1 000 learners on 8 and 9 June, and 4 000 members of the public that have booked free tickets to visit the polar research vessel on the weekend of 10 and 11 June.
“We are excited to once again host public open days on board the SA Agulhas II research vessel,” Creecy said.
The last pre-COVID-19 open days saw the vessel visit Gqeberha, East London, Durban and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, providing members of the public the opportunity to see first-hand the important research being done to understand the ocean environment.
“Through initiatives such as these, we hope to inspire more South Africans to take action towards a more sustainable future and play an active role in protecting our oceans,” the Minister said.
The World Oceans Day open day initiative forms part of the department’s Environment Month activities hosted during June each year.
To learn more, visit www.dffe.gov.za. – SAnews.gov.za
Source: South African Government News Agency