Marine Biologists pass on enthusiasm and knowledge to Students

The Ocean Stewards Programme was officially launched at the end of May at the Grindrod Ltd offices in Durban. Students from around the country were given the opportunity to meet some of South Africa’s top marine biologists and geologists. Wildlands and Grindrod (as part of their joint Blue Fund initiative), together with Sea-Quests, have established the Ocean Stewards Programme as a means to develop and bring more students into the marine conservation sector. “By building capacity and bringing a new generation of Ocean Stewards into the marine sector, Wildlands hopes to address the key challenges facing marine environments, such as degradation, overfishing, pollution and many others,” said Mark Gerrard, Conservation Grants Manager for Wildlands.

At the launch event the 12 Third year and four Honours level students were introduced to the programme and given an overview of some of the ground breaking marine projects being undertaken in South Africa. Cathie Lewis, the Group Company Secretary for Grindrod Ltd, welcomed everyone and highlighted that South Africa needed believers, people who would dream big and lead the country forward.

The students will be taken on board the Angra Pequena, a research vessel currently undertaking work along the KZN coastline as part of the African Coelacanth Ecology Programme (ACEP). The cruise will be led by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, together with scientists and students from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI), South African Institute for African Biodiversity (SAIAB) and University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Studies of the offshore canyons and seafloor (reefs and soft sediments) and associated fish communities and plankton and oceanography will be conducted. “By linking the Ocean Stewards programme into the ACEP Surrogacy project, we aim conduct vital research work while catalyzing the emergence of a strong cohort of future marine conservation scientists and managers,” said Dr Jean Harris of KZN Wildlife.

The day ended with the students being inducted into the ways of sailing, including a tour around the R/V Angra Pequena. “I am so fortunate to be a part of this programme and am really excited to head out to sea on the research vessel,” commented Asanda Mthethwa, one of the honours students from UKZN. The cruise sets off on the 4th of June and will return to port on the 24th.