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Spotlight on coastal communities for World Oceans Day

One of the key questions on World Oceans Day on 8 June is what happens to coastal communities who are heavily reliant on the ocean for their livelihoods in the face of rapidly depleting marine resources?

As we celebrate World Oceans Day on 8 June, we are reminded of the importance of the ocean in our lives and inspired to take continuing action year-round to protect and restore a resource that we all depend on – not least the small scale fishers of the Kogelberg with whom WWF South Africa has been working for several years.

One of our more recent projects in the Kogelberg area has been working with small scale fishers to deploy baited underwater video cameras (BRUVs) to record marine life below the surface, both within the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area and outside of it. For many fishers this has been the first glimpse of what takes place beneath the waves, giving them a better understanding of the conservation issues.

According to project manager Sindisa Sigam, involving the community in this fish monitoring research is making a positive difference and has improved the relationship between the community and the authorities who have to deal with high levels of poaching.

Another key asset of this area is the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area managed by Cape Nature. This MPA not only helps to safeguard and replenish marine resources, but also offers alternate tourism opportunities centred around Stony Point, one of only two land-based colonies of the charismatic but endangered African penguin.

Craig Smith, Senior Manager of WWF South Africa’s Marine Programme, commented: “In an area such as the Kogelberg which is rife with high levels of poaching, it is clear the local fishers need alternatives to make ends meet. From our perspective, they need to earn more for their legal catch – based on the principle ‘less is more’. It is also important to develop supplementary livelihoods outside of fishing that can support these communities during lean times while our oceans recover.”

WWF recently secured funding to expand the work it has been doing in the Kogelberg to Hamburg, between Port Alfred and East London, in the Eastern Cape.

However, this does not mean that the work around the Kogelberg is over. The WWF project here will continue for another five years, creating more job opportunities and skills development.

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