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South Africans urged to combat marine pollution

Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment Minister, Barbara Creecy, has called on South Africans to play an active role in reducing marine pollution.

As the nation joined the global celebration of World Oceans Day (WOD), she stressed the importance of adopting sustainable practices such as reducing littering, participating in beach clean-ups, and recycling materials.

Observed on 8 June, this year’s WOD was themed ‘Awaken New Depths.’ The primary aim of the celebration was to highlight the crucial role oceans play in shaping socio-economic realities and ensuring environmental sustainability. June also marks Environment Month in South Africa, adding further significance to the observance.

Importance of combating marine pollution

Minister Creecy highlighted South Africa’s unique position as a maritime nation bordered by three major oceans: the Atlantic, Indian, and Southern Oceans.

“South Africa recognises the significance of our oceanic territory and the imperative to deepen our understanding and ensure the protection of this invaluable ecosystem,” Creecy stated.

She noted that oceans influence weather patterns, support diverse ecosystems, and provide livelihoods for millions, with 40% of South Africa’s population residing within 100km of the coastline.

The theme ‘Awaken New Depths’ reflects the commitment to exploring and harnessing the immense potential of the oceans.

Through concerted efforts, the goal is to enhance understanding of marine environments and promote sustainable use for the benefit of current and future generations.

South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) spans 200 nautical miles into the surrounding ocean, covering a maritime area of 1.5 million square kilometres, including territories like the Prince Edward and Marion Islands. Despite this vast territory, much of the world’s oceans remain unexplored, underlining the need for increased awareness and conservation efforts.

Addressing weather impacts

Recent adverse weather conditions in South Africa have underscored the ocean’s impact on the environment, and the importance of combating marine pollution. Heavy rains in the Eastern and Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have caused significant property damage and loss of life.

Creecy explained that these events were driven by air-sea interaction processes, emphasising the importance of scientific research in predicting and mitigating future extreme weather events.

“South African scientists and international collaborators are working hard to study these extreme events to understand their frequency and magnitude in the future,” she said.

Creecy’s message resonated with the need for collective action. “By working together, we can unlock the vast potential of our oceans while preserving their ecological integrity for generations to come. As we commemorate World Oceans Day, let us awaken to the depths of our oceans and embrace our role as custodians of these precious resources,” she concluded.

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