Our oceans make up 70 % of the planet’s surface and around 60% of the human population lives along the coastal zone. South Africa is bordered by two mighty oceans – the Atlantic and the Indian – both of which are characterized by individual currents, ecosystems and marine living resources. Every year – since 1988 – South Africa celebrates National Marine Week to create awareness on the marine and coastal environment and promote the sustainable use and conservation of these resources for the benefit of both present and future generations. This year Marine Week runs from the 13 – 17 October and the SOSSC is joining the festivities.
The festival started early for the SOSSC with Verona Smith and Michael Carnegie setting up an exhibit at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg and to give a talk about sharks prior to the three performances of an excellent education and awareness play performed by the Jungle Threatre called “The Whale Show”. The topic of sharks was introduced through linking whales and whale sharks, by highlighting the similarities and differences between them. This was extremely well received and has resulted in many parents and their children visiting the Centre and our new ambassador, the shy Happy Eddie and his newborn cousins. During Marine Week, Verona and Michael will travel with the cast of the “The Whale Show” to five underprivileged schools to present the talk. Next year the Jungle Theatre will be performing a play on Sharks which will be written and co-directed by Lesley Rochat.
The City of Cape Town has sponsored 300 junior school learners to visit the SOSSC during Marine Week. Together with Dr Wayne Florence, Curator of the Marine Invertebrate Collection of Iziko Museum, Verona and Michael they will present exciting shark lessons to the kids. The lesson will explore the world of sharks by asking and answering five questions: What are sharks? Why are they important? What are the threats to Sharks? What is the truth about Sharks? And how can we be SharkWise to help save our Sharks? Part of the lesson includes an interactive, fun puppet show by local actor, David Muller. This will be followed by a rocky shore ecology lesson by Dr Florence with the help of Michael. The learners will have the opportunity to touch animals that will be placed in touch tanks at the Centre. Following this, the learners will watch Maxine’s Journey, a film about the release of Maxine, a ragged tooth shark, from the predators’ tank at the Two Oceans Aquarium. To end the exciting time with us, the children will enjoy snacks around the pool at the Centre.
To start off Marine Week from a research point of view I went out to sea to deploy Crittercam. The sharks were slow, but the whales were on fire. We counted over 20 whales en route from Simons Town to Seal Island and saw incredible behaviour like tail slapping and breaching. The calves are the most active and playful and one even swam right up to the boat. Even though we had a slow shark day, we did manage to deploy the camera on a 3.5 meter female white shark. The camera went on at 10h30 and released at 16h00 where we located it about 3 km from Seal Island. On Thursday and Friday I will be presenting talks to the City of Cape Town Shark Spotters and KEAG at the Centre to provide updates on the white shark research for the year. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Nikki Best, an intern from the US here for three months. Nikki is busy analyzing over 50 hours of Crittercam footage and will be cataloguing the dorsal fin ID’s of the white sharks of False Bay. Welcome Nikki and to everyone else – Happy Marine Week!