Protecting the oceans

The Arctic Sunrise docked at the V&A Waterfront.

The Arctic Sunrise, one ship in the Greenpeace fleet, docked at the V&A Waterfront last Thursday, October 17.

The ship and crew are on a Greenpeace pole-to-pole ship tour to rally support for the Global Oceans Treaty, which will see 30% of the world’s oceans become protected by 2030 under the United Nations.

The 23 members and volunteers were welcomed in true Cape style, with performances by minstrels as well as the United We Stand dance crew from Gugulethu.

Volunteers from Greenpeace office in Cape Town were among those who came out to welcome the crew.

The project is also raising awareness about the impact of overfishing on local fishing communities in Kalk Bay, highlighting the connections between the climate crisis and the biodiversity breakdown in oceans, and and providing a platform for political engagement on local ocean issues.

The trip, which started in March in the Arctic, will end in the Antarctic, and there will be stops along the way to do research and create awareness about the state of the oceans. The pole-to-pole campaign is one leg of Greenpeace’s global Protect the Oceans campaign.

Bukelwa Nzimande, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, said the threats faced by the ocean cause waves that affect the sustainability of life and our very ability to survive.

“The Arctic Sunrise docking in Cape Town is symbolic of the need for a larger commitment to protect the oceans and fight the climate crisis and will further illustrate the rich and plentiful marine life in Southern Africa. “The Cape hosts unique and diverse ecosystems which are bountiful resource for fisheries and associated fishing communities, and all of them need to be protected.”

Captain of the Arctic Sunrise, Mark Fincken, said the team will leave from Cape Town next week to embark on a three-week voyage to Seamount Vema, where the team will be doing research on local biodiversity in the area, and recover the abandoned fishing gear that threatens it.

He said the area had been untouched for years, and that traps and nets to catch lobsters in particular, have been left behind and are catching unnecessarily. The Arctic Sunrise is one of three Greenpeace ships which form part of the campaign – Esperanza is currently off Brazil at the reefs, and the Rainbow Warrior III is in Europe ahead of the expedition.

The Arctic Sunrise is a 45-year-old ship which recently underwent a refurbishment to accommodate more crew and to keep it running for another 10 years.

Crew member Thuleka Zuma said the ship was previously used to hunt seals and was bought by Greenpeace in 1995. She said the icebreaker was nicknamed the washing machine by those onboard because of the ship’s instability when moving through the Arctic.

The pole to pole campaign is set to be complete in March next year.