OVER 500 LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL MARINE SCIENCE EXPERTS GATHER IN PORT EDWARD TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE ON THE MANAGEMENT AND GOVERNANCE OF THE MARINE AND COASTAL ENVIRONMENT
26 OCTOBER 2015
The Chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, Mr Sipho Mkhize officially opened the biennial Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)’s 9th Scientific Symposium at the Wild Coast Sun Resort in Port Edward today, Monday 26 October 2015. The symposium will conclude on Friday, 30 October 2015.
As the commemoration of National Marine Week in South Africa draws to an end, over 500 local and international marine scientists and biologists are meeting in Port Edward, to share knowledge and experiences on the management and governance of the marine and coastal environment in the Western Indian Ocean region. Partially bordered by the Indian Ocean, South Africa’s hosting of this symposium is particularly significant as the country seeks to unlock the economic potential of the ocean, in line with the Operation Phakisa initiative.
“Our ocean space is a resource rich and relatively pristine environment. The ocean represents a significant asset for current and future generations of South Africans. The use of various marine resources in our ocean space has increased over time and there remains significant potential for the unlocking of further economic development opportunities,” said Mr Mkhize.
Operation Phakisa addresses development constraints in a fast and efficient manner. The approach has been adopted from the Malaysian government and tailored to suit South Africa’s development needs.
According to CSIR coastal systems research group leader and scientist, Dr Louis Celliers, the aim of the symposium is to showcase the growing scientific capacity of countries in the Western Indian Ocean region, and to devise ways and means to use this capacity to better manage our coastal and marine resources to the benefit of communities”. The CSIR is proud hosts of the conference, along with the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board.
“Coastal and marine science is strong and healthy in countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean. The question is how we put this wealth of capacity and knowledge to good use. How can the products of science make us better custodians of the incredible diversity and abundance of ecosystem services of the WIO?”
“The CSIR is dedicated to contributing to an understanding of the ocean environment through its many related research groups that include Coastal Systems, Ocean and Climate Systems, Ecosystem Services and Coastal and Marine Remote Sensing,” said CSIR Group Executive: Operations, Mr Laurens Cloete.
The theme of the Symposium is “Knowledge – improving lives in ocean and coastal systems”. In line with its reputation as the major hub for exchange and dissemination of information, the 9thSymposium will comprise a range of presentations and sessions from keynote presentations to oral and poster presentations. Six keynote presentations, 215 oral presentations, and over 250 poster presentations will be delivered during the week. A total of 12 special sessions on different topics will be held on 30 October. Two new books will also be launched at the Symposium.
“The WIOMSA Symposium is one of the most exciting and unique fora where coastal and marine science meets management and policy,” said Dr Celliers.
“South Africa is committed to the protection of our oceans. Monitoring the ocean and coastal environment over the last 20 years has grown to be a significantly greater practice than ever before. This is due to the ever increasing understanding of the importance of the oceanic environment to South Africa. A network of Marine Protected Areas is extremely important to increase ecosystem resilience, maintain genetic biodiversity and our ability to cope with and adapt to the greatest threat facing human kind: climate change,” said Mr Mkhize.
The Western Indian Ocean is incredibly important to countless coastal communities and populations. From small subsistence fishermen, to large ocean going ships, this part of the world’s oceans sustains millions. Fourteen African countries have coastlines in this ocean, stretching out from Madagascar to Egypt, and down to Cape Agulhas in South Africa. Coral reefs along the coastline of Kenya, Tanzania, and northern Mozambique form a large fringing reef complex that is amongst the largest in the world.
The vision and mission of WIOMSA is to study and care for the Western Indian Ocean, combining science and local indigenous knowledge to promote healthy, functioning ecosystems, and protect ocean resources for all users and stakeholders. WIOMSA aims to further community involvement and conservation, connecting people and the environment as together we face the oncoming threat of climate change in a warming ocean.