Waterfront outlines support for ocean economy and wildlife

CEO of the V&A Waterfront giving Bob a back scratch. Bob is the ambassador for the Two Oceans Aquarium turtle rehabilitation programme.

In celebration of the United Nations World Ocean Day, marked today, and annually on June 8, the V&A Waterfront announced ways in which they support the ocean economy and preservation of wildlife.

According to the United Nations, it is estimated that by 2030, as many as 40 million people will be employed by ocean-based industries globally.

But 90% of big fish populations have already been depleted and 50% of coral reefs have been destroyed, so scientists warn that, while we use our oceans to grow economies, we also have to change destructive habits and actions that are destroying them.

This year, the theme for World Oceans Day – The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods – explores how human activity impacts on life in the oceans, and how this in turn impacts on the millions of people who use them to earn a living.

A third of the V&A’s ocean-fronting property is dedicated to ocean-based industries.

Waterfront CEO David Green said the V&A Waterfront was founded on the basis of connecting Capetonians to the the sea. “The ocean plays a big part in everything we do and we looked at potential for economic growth for the ocean economy and also at job creation.

“We have a dual responsibility to protect the ocean from harm, while still unlocking the economic opportunities it presents.”

Mr Green said the Waterfront’s role was to encourage opportunity for the ocean economy, but at the same time, protect the ocean from harm while doing this.

The recently formed V&A’s Ocean Cluster, created to facilitate collaborations between all ocean economy tenants and other stakeholders, is set to start sustainable conversations, engagements and ways forward, said Mr Green.

The Waterfront is focusing its activities to build the ocean economy while supporting ocean stewardship through its new department called SOLVE Waterfront.

The Waterfront shares its oceans with marine life and when issues such as pollution, global warming and overfishing upset this delicate ecological balance, the ripple effect is widespread.

Mr Green said an example of one of the issues they had was seagulls nesting in office buildings, causing a messy, smelly environment.

He said the Waterfront has been working with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCOBB) to understand the nesting and environments for seagulls, and try to move them on.

He said another issue was the seal population, and the Waterfront were monitoring the proper disposal of plastic and box ties, which could potentially hurt seals.

A dedicated crew of more than 90 people are responsible for collecting, handling and sorting the property’s waste at the V&A Waterfront’s on-site Waste Recovery and Recycling Centre.

Approximately 15% of all recycled waste is plastic, and in 2017 the V&A Waterfront made a public commitment to eliminate single-use plastics across the property, and urges tenants to recycle.

Mr Green said the Waterfront had also put together a multidisciplinary team of scientists to investigate a mass of dead fish in the marina recently.

The story made headlines when it was reported that tons of rotting mackerel was discovered in the marina, causing bad odours and changing the colour of the water.

Mr Green said they were facilitating the recovery of oxygen in the water and to draw fresh water to the marina. “While we constantly flush the canal, this doesn’t solve the problem, so we are looking into it.”

Another driver of ocean sustainability is the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, a non-profit organisation focusing on marine science education programmes, all of which will continue under newly appointed chairperson and head of the V&A Waterfront’s Ocean Cluster, Ann Lamont.

Ms Lamont took over from previous chair Maryke Musson.

She said the education foundation and the Ocean Cluster were working across the precinct to reduce conflict between people and marine life, as well as pollution.

Part of the education foundation is the turtle rehabilitation programme, which Ms Lamont said was a “good example of collaboration”. “We have a turtle network across South Africa’s coast who notify us of hurt turtles, or bring them to us. Many turtles are hurt because they ingest plastic or get caught in nets.”

Turtles of all sizes and species are brought to the Two Oceans Aquarium by rescue groups, often requiring long-term treatment and care. Some of these turtles spend decades in the special rehabilitation programme where they are cared for before they can be released.

Two Oceans Aquarium conservation coordinator Talitha Noble shows plastic ingested by turtles.

Conservation coordinator at the aquarium, Talitha Noble, said about 71% of turtles which come to the programme pass plastic, and they lost a turtle hatching last week, who died because of the trauma of passing over 100 pieces of plastic.

Alexandra Panagiotou, who works with the turtles at the aquarium, feeds Harry, who is also in the rehabilitation programme.

“ We want to use these turtles stories to create awareness and work with the Waterfront to help preserve the homes of the wildlife we release.”

A hatchling in the aquarium’s ICU.

A total of 53 turtles are currently in the programme.

With funding and support from the V&A Waterfront, the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation formalised the Marine Wildlife Management Programme to reduce conflict between wildlife, shipping, and other activities, and to minimise injuries to wildlife in the harbour through education.

The Waterfront is also exploring the feasibility of developing an Ocean Economy Hub at its property.

Mr Green said: “We see this hub as providing a dedicated innovation, event, skills development, networking and co-working space for the marine manufacturing sector and other sectors of the blue ocean economy.”

He said they were also looking forward to growing sea-faring tourism and welcoming cruise passenger ships such as the Queen Mary again.

“Since developing the Cape Town Cruise Terminal, we received exponential demand from international cruise line operators all wanting to visit Cape Town for the first time.

“For now, passenger ships can only dock in Cape Town to refuel, but the global roll out of vaccines is leading to renewed interest in cruise ship bookings for 2022, so we are confident we will see future growth.”