January 2015
Contents / home
Bloodhound's supersonic quest
Deputy Minister visits SAASTA
SAASTA Highlights Report
SAASTA takes science to Beijing
Natural Science Olympiad
Community media pilot project
Crystallography kits for schools
PUB celebrates 10 years of biotech
Reaching visually impaired learners
School debate finals
Science communication workshops
KAT-7 seen as design highlight
Meet Nithaya Chetty
Eskom Expo 2014
SKA SA exhibits at BRICS EXPO
Algoa Bay Hope Spot launched
Inspiring environmental scientists
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Endangered African penguin is the icon for Algoa Bay Hope Spot

  Dr Sylvia Earle launches the Algoa Bay Hope Spot in Port Elizabeth (Picture: Lloyd Edwards)
  Dr Sylvia Earle shares the story of her life-long quest to protect the ocean and its inhabitants with the audience (Picture: Lloyd Edwards)
  Dr Sylvia Earle with the CEO of the Sustainable Seas Trust, Dr Tony Ribbink (right), Lloyd Edwards of Raggy Charters (left) and Algoa Bay Hope Spot chairperson Dr Lorien Pichegru of NMMU (far left) (Picture: Lloyd Edwards)
  The launch of the Hope Spot might provide some promise for mitigating the challenges being faced by the African penguin
"The next time you dine on sushi – or sashimi, or swordfish steak, or shrimp cocktail, whatever wildlife you happen to enjoy from the ocean – think of the real cost. For every pound that goes to market, more than 10 pounds, even 100 pounds, may be thrown away as bycatch. This is the consequence of not knowing that there are limits to what we can take out of the sea." – Sylvia Earle
Algoa Bay was launched as a Mission Blue Hope Spot at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth on 11 December 2014.

The Algoa Bay Hope Spot initiative has adopted the African Penguin as its icon, as Algoa Bay hosts more than half its global population. The once healthy population of African penguins in Southern Africa has been in steady decline for a number of years.

St Croix Island in Algoa Bay is home to the largest breeding colony of African penguins in the world. These birds, endemic to Southern Africa, are endangered and the population in the bay lost 70% within ten years. They went from a high of 60 000 individuals down to the current number of 21 000, roughly half of the entire world's population (find out more).

Research is essential for the continued survival of penguins in Algoa Bay. Scientists are researching penguins' movements and feeding habits. BirdLife South Africa and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute from University of Cape Town, have tracked movement of breeding penguins in relation with fishing exclusion zones in the bay for the past seven years, thereby demonstrating for the first time the benefit of marine protected areas for a marine top predator. The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity's Acoustic Telemetry Array Platform (ATAP) telemetry network in the Bay provides a platform for tracking the movement of 'pinged' penguins (i.e. penguins fitted with transmitters).

"We hope that the launch of the Hope Spot might provide some promise for mitigating the challenges being faced by the African penguin," says Penny Haworth, Manager: Communications and Governance at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB).

According to Penny the launch was an inspiring, emotionally charged and uplifting event. A good turnout of 'blue ocean citizens' – Algoa Bay residents, divers, beach lovers, educationists, scientists, tourism officials and many others – took time out to attend and listen to guest speaker Dr Sylvia Earle and share the story of her life-long quest to protect the ocean and its inhabitants.

From 'aqua babe' and sweetheart of the American press in the 1970s to having been dubbed more recently 'HRH Queen of the Oceans', in her early twenties Earle was the first female marine scientist to take on the then male-dominated world of deep-sea scuba diving. Not only did she pave the way for underwater marine discovery and exploration, she also holds the 1000-m deepwater women's record for a solo dive and has over 7 000 dive hours recorded.

Citizens of the ocean

Presently Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic, Earle calls us 'citizens of the ocean' as everything we depend on for our continued survival on the planet is driven by the oceans: "We're all sea creatures – no ocean – no us," she says.

She started the Mission Blue initiative to encourage citizens of the world to protect our oceans. She aims to build hope for our rapidly diminishing marine resources by taking action to ensure the protection, conservation and sustainability of our coastal heritage.

In a whirlwind journey along the South African coast, Earle launched five designated South African Hope Spots, culminating in a sixth launch at Aliwal Shoal. South Africans can be proud to be part of this essential initiative to protect our unique coastal heritage.

"People privileged enough to work at research institutions such as SAIAB and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), can take great strength from and be proud to be making a contribution to initiatives such as this," says Penny. "A vote of congratulations and thanks must go to Dr Tony Ribbink, CEO of the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) and the various Hope Spot committees that have ensured the success of the South African chapter of this journey."

A copy of the beautiful coffee table book South African Coasts: A celebration of our seas and shores, signed by Sylvia Earle, will be soon available in the Margaret Smith Library at SAIAB. Those who wish to purchase a copy of the book can download an order form. All the money generated from book sales in Algoa Bay will be directed towards an education trust fund catering for local communities (Algoa Bay Hope Spot Trust fund).

Visit the Algoa Bay Hope Spot on Facebook: algoa bay hope spot
Watch this splendid video on Algoa Bay and this video in which Dr Sylvia Earle shares astonishing images of the ocean – and shocking stats about its rapid decline.