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08 Feb 2021

Celebrating 70 years of ocean conservation

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer) Picture: SAAMBR. Dr Larry Oellermann (SAAMBR CEO) with Jabu the seal, celebrating SAAMBR's 70th anniversary

What began 70 years ago as the founding of a new non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to ocean research, has grown into an umbrella organisation responsible for introducing 20 million people to the wonders of ocean life, as well as copious amounts of research. The South African Association of Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) in Durban was founded on 31 January 1951, and has evolved to become the parent organisation for the Oceanographic Research Institute, uShaka Sea World and Sea World Education.

Many of today’s marine scientists in South Africa attribute their love of the ocean to visits to the Durban Aquarium at a young age.

The Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI), SAAMBR’s research division, has undertaken applied marine research along much of the east coast of Africa. ORI scientists are active in many fields, including research on fisheries, estuaries, coral reefs, marine protected areas (MPAs) and coastal zone management. The organisation has contributed to policy through close working relationships with various government agencies, and many protected areas along South Africa’s east coast were declared with input from ORI scientists. In fact, several fish species owe their continued existence to the timely research conducted by ORI scientists.

Thanks to SAAMBR’s animal rehabilitation initiatives, many seals, turtles, sea snakes, penguins and many other marine species – many of which have been rescued from areas along the Zululand coastal region – have been given a second chance at life. The team’s experience and dedication have seen many of these rescued strandings released back into the ocean once rehabilitated.

‘We are quite sure that our founders had no idea their dream would grow to reach so many millions of people and have such direct, positive impacts on the ocean. In 1951 people thought that the ocean was too big for humans to ever impact. We now know differently as human impacts reach every part of the ocean through pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing and climate change.’

‘But we also know that the health of human beings depends on the health of the oceans – we simply must care for the ocean. SAAMBR has been advocating ocean care for over 70 years – truly an NGO established before its time!’ said Ann Kunz on behalf of the SAAMBR.