Dr Sylvia Earle, an internationally renowned marine conservationist and scientist, was in Cape Town this week to launch the 2013 Sea Pledge tour of South Africa. Dr Earle was joined at the launch event by Dr Ben Ngubane, former South African Minister of Science and Technology and KwaZulu-Natal Premier, as well as 11 times South African free diving champion, Hanli Prinsloo of the I Am Water Trust.
The Sea Pledge tour, an initiative of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) and the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), aims to foster awareness and appreciation for oceans and conservation amongst all South Africans. In so doing, it will be promoting cooperation between scientists, municipalities, business, schools, clubs, societies and other groups across the country. The Sea Pledge tour will promote a commitment to decreasing environmental footprints as well as responsible coastal tourism and conservation. It will also be a charitable drive to raise funds towards developing Sustainable Education and Skills Centres for Employment in impoverished coastal areas of South Africa which will enable alternative and sustainable livelihoods that reduce pressure on critically depleted marine resources.
It was a privilege to listen to world-renowned ocean conservationist and patron of the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), Dr Sylvia Earle, give the keynote address at the Sea Pledge tour launch. Dr Sylvia Earle has been at the forefront of ocean exploration and conservation and is a leading authority on creating a global network of marine protected areas that are large enough to save and restore the ocean, Earth’s blue heart.
The SEA Pledge initiative is led by Dr Tony Ribbink who said that: “South Africans are indeed fortunate to have opportunities to listen to and interact with Sylvia Earle as she is a brilliant inspiring speaker. Parents and school teachers should do their utmost to have their children attend one of the lectures. Everyone could learn about her record dives, how she and other women lived and worked night and day underwater on saturation dives, why she was named the “First Hero of the Planet” by Time Magazine, why she is referred to as “Her Deepness” and about the way she is developing the Hope Spots as part of Mission Blue following the TED Award.”
Dr Sylvia Earle is a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and has led more than 100 expeditions worldwide involving over 7,000 hours spent underwater in connection with her research. She won the prestigious TED award, has 23 honorary doctorates, and has been instrumental in influencing presidents and national marine policy in several countries.
Named the ‘First Hero for the Planet’ by Time Magazine, Dr Earle sets a strong example by not eating any fish, arguing compellingly that if you are part of the market you are part of the demand to catch fish. Dr Earle was also the person who first conceived the need to develop the Sustainable Seafood campaign which is now a global initiative with WWF’s South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) being a prominent partner on the Sea Pledge tours.
As part her prize for winning the 2009 TED Talk award, Dr Earle had one wish – to establish more marine protected areas around the globe. “Less than 1% of our world’s oceans are properly protected,” explained Dr Earle, “Humans have learned how to consume fish, but we haven’t learned how they live.”
Oceans and the vast array of life they support, face threats from pollution, invasive alien species, global warming, ocean acidification, over fishing and a lack of regulation. Dr Earle spoke about the valuable ecosystem services provided by oceans which include maintaining healthy biodiversity, providing a carbon sink, generating oxygen, and preserving critical habitats – and need to designate marine protected areas to help create a sustainable future for all people and generations to come.