Blog: “Why join the navy, when you can be a pirate!” | WWF South Africa

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Blog: “Why join the navy, when you can be a pirate!”

WWF-SASSI's Pavs Pillay hoists the sails for those fighting the perceptions that our oceans are inexhaustible.

When I heard Steve Jobs utter these words, it felt like he had been voyeuristically watching my life. I grew up in a typical small Indian town in Pretoria in the 80’s and 90’s. Our town lay in a valley surrounded by veld.  In this veld was a menagerie of animals, from wild hare and rabbits, to monitor lizards (often called “likkewaan”), snakes and a myriad of birds and bugs.  I would spend endless hours as a kid immersed in the veld – just watching the elegant pirouettes of natures’ bounty, indulging in the cocophony of sounds they made.  As the town grew in size, the animals and bugs rapidly disappeared.  I then made it my mission to be a “pirate”, can you fathom an Indian pirate.  My mission was to kidnap any animal or bug and hide these in my garden. I learnt very quickly that monitor lizards did not enjoy confinement or chicken curry! My plans were thwarthed when my dad put an end to my “ Noah’s ark” ambitions and emancipated all the animals and bugs. Nevertheless I never stopped believing that I was destined to save the planet’s animals even it was one species at a time! My interest in the oceans was peaked when the local environmental show 50/50 featured the killing of dolphins and turtles in fishing nets. I was flabbergasted and my inner pirate made an ever-strong appearance once again. And true to my pirate nature, I “took to the seas” and became a marine biologist. 
Fast-forward a few years; my intrepid journey taught me that the world’s oceans produce 1 in every 3 breaths you take, they absorb about one third of our CO2 emissions, are a source of food and provide us with employment, energy and transport. The world’s oceans are of crucial importance for human beings, and yet they are under threat due to our activities. The current state of our oceans gives cause for great concern: 89% of the world’s commercial fish stocks are overfished (FOA 2016) and marine ecosystems are under severe pressure from global warming and pollution. Yet the oceans are our last refuge to feed our burgeoning population – 9 billion by 2050.   This means that we are facing a double challenge. We have to halt the degradation of the world’s marine ecosystems at the same time as we increase ocean productivity. A task that almost seems impossible given our current track record and limited success – so if there was ever a time to be a pirate intent on disrupting the status quo and making a difference to our oceans, now is the time. 
Instead of being someone who engages in environmental “panic” or refrains from “the sky-is falling” antics, be the rebel, who does not follow the latest trend of what’s hot and happening with seafood. You can be the pirate that fights the free market reality that pretends that our oceans are inexhaustible because if there is demand for a resource, there will always be a group seeking to exploit it. 
So how does one become the outlaw that goes against conventional wisdom? 
  • Make the connection – our actions have far reaching consequences, if you litter, the litter blows into a storm drain and all drains lead to rivers, all rivers lead to the sea. The oceans have over 165 million tonnes of plastic floating around which is 25 times heavier than the pyramids of Giza - Blimey!
  • Use your hard-earned doubloons to make bold and brave sustainable seafood choices. Use the WWF-SASSI app ( to help!
  • Be even more controversial and challenge retailers and restaurants on how sustainable their seafood is and bring a spring upon ‘er
  • Avast ye, bring ye’ own, ditch the disposables, use a reusable cup, reusable shopping bags, sustainable straw, and use your own takeaway container
  • All hands hoay by volunteering for beach cleanups and supporting WWF-SA, SASSI and aquarium initiatives and activities
  • Shiver me timbers, speak up, no ... shout about unsustainable practices at retailers, restaurants and about ocean conservation issues
  • Be a scallywag by avoiding toiletries with micro-beads and other plastic particles, or that are harmful to the environment
So being a pirate is easy and making a difference to our oceans is even easier so weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen me hearties as we embark on our pirate journey together. Once a pirate, always a pirate! 

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