Coast KZN

30 Sep 2020

We DO need our oceans

Dave Savides (Zululand Observer) Picture: Maccassar Coastline along False Bay: Cape Town; Western Cape; South AFrica

A provocative environmental programme is placing the spotlight on the value of the country’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). WILDOCEANS, a programme of the non-profit organisation, WILDTRUST, has launched its ‘We don’t need our oceans’ social media campaign to show South Africa – and the world – what life would be like without our oceans. The aim is to mobilise a regional movement for increased marine protection, since only 5% of the oceans around South Africa fall within MPAs.

Campaign leader, Lauren van Nijkerk of the WILDTRUST said: ‘People don’t act like they need the oceans. ‘Covid-19 certainly made people question their relationship with nature, but I do not believe it made people care less about themselves and more about the planet.’

To address this, the team had to come up with an innovative way to deliver the message of ocean conservation, one that would resonate with communities and government, highlighting the added economic benefits. ‘I think we can do this by showing South Africa a world without our oceans,’ said Van Nijkerk. Life support system ‘The oceans are overfished, full of our trash, exploited, packed full of noisy vessels, explored with seismic blasts, drilled and reefs destroyed,’ she explained.

‘Scientists warn that, at most, we have 10 years to stay below the 1.5°C heating threshold and avoid the existential risks to nature and people that crossing will bring.’ She explained that coral reef die-offs, collapsing fish populations and species extinctions are evidence of the escalating ocean crisis brought about by overfishing, ocean heating, acidification, pollution and multiple other stressors.

‘They are eroding the ocean’s ability to function as our life support system,’ she continued. ‘A shift from 5% to 10% protection in South Africa’s waters will see massive benefits for our country.’ Van Nijkerk explained that, according to the 2014 ‘State of the Ocean and Coasts Report’, the direct value of the marine ecotourism sector to the South African economy was estimated at R400-million, and its indirect value at more than R2-billion. The combined economic benefits from coastal resources are estimated to be around 35% of South Africa’s annual GDP. ‘Defending the oceans’ capacity to produce oxygen, sequester carbon and provide food and livelihoods for billions of people is vital,’ said Van Nijkerk.

‘It is important to note that economic recovery is compatible with environmental protection,’ said Van Nijkerk. For more information and to check out the campaign, visit