World Ocean Day 2017: Create awareness and appreciating the value of the ocean

Cape Town - It is World Ocean Day (WOD) and there is no better way to get clued up on eco-travel than to join the world in commemorating this annual celebration, which takes place on 8 June.

The tradition of this day was originally created in Canada to honour, help protect, and conserve the world’s oceans as it provides us with many resources and services including oxygen, climate regulation, food sources and medicine.

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And Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, says South Africa has already earmarked the ocean to promote economic growth and to boost job creation in line with the National Development Plan.

“We have an ocean space that is greater than our land territory, and the extended continental shelf claim will double the size of this ocean geographic extent.

"The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 is key in addressing these ever-increasing global environmental challenges of our times and re-commits the international community to a strengthened global partnership, given the necessary means of implementation, to secure a sustainable future,” says Molewa. 

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The South African Ocean region is globally recognised as unique and a hotspot of marine biodiversity with over 10 000 marine species. 

Molewa says the region is at a unique crossroads. The Atlantic, Southern and Indian Ocean’s fishing grounds are among the healthiest worldwide, and coastal tourism is among the biggest income earners for many countries. 

Ports and other coastal infrastructure are growing in importance and the region is crossed by some of the world’s main shipping lanes. Emerging prospects of oil and gas development offer unprecedented opportunities for growth, says Molewa.

“But the accompanying challenges are great, with a high risk of environmental and socio-economic impacts. Nevertheless, the prospect for a vibrant sustainable blue economy is on our doorstep and the framing of the SDGs provides both a vision and focused goals and targets for balancing economic, social and environmental aims, to bring benefits for the people of the region," says Molewa.

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Molewa says one of these challenges is marine pollution as roughly 80% of all marine pollution stems from activities carried out on land, more effort can be focused on tackling land-derived pollution and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is mandated, among others, to manage and protect South Africa’s coastal water quality, to support all beneficial uses of coastal water such as recreation, fishing, aquaculture and desalination. 

“Considering the target on reducing marine pollution, we realise that tackling land-based sources of marine pollution will require the challenging, but necessary collaboration with a variety of sectors and user groups. We have also optimised our efforts to handle this important matter through our regional partnerships," says Molewa. 

In conclusion, Molewa says as part of the implementation of the Operations Phakisa: Oceans Economy, the department have registered substantial progress.  

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"South Africa has, to date, unlocked a total of R17.7bn in investment through the Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy process in the five initially identified areas which is Offshore Oil and Gas, Aquaculture, Marine Manufacturing and Transport, Oceans Governance and Tourism," says Molewa.

NOTE: If you will be taking part in this year's public awareness celebration,  the theme is "Our Oceans, Our Future" which will focus on encouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future.

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