World Ocean Day highlights saving our marine life from pollution and overfishing

World Ocean Day highlights how oceans support all life on earth. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

World Ocean Day highlights how oceans support all life on earth. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 8, 2024


Cape Town - World Ocean Day, celebrated today (Saturday), highlights how oceans support all life on earth.

Their vital role is threatened by climate change, pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction, but, according to the Wild Africa Fund, we can still act now to protect our marine heritage.

“Ocean health is critical to mitigating climate change, growing our economies, and sustaining life on the planet. Our oceans produce 70% of the Earth’s oxygen, absorb 25% of carbon dioxide emissions, and capture 90% of the excess heat that those emissions generate.

“They drive our planet’s weather systems, feed over a billion people, and are a major attraction for tourism. In South Africa, coastal goods and services are estimated to contribute 35% to our GDP.

And while our terrestrial wildlife in South Africa is world famous, our marine life deserves just as much credit: we’re home to the ocean’s own Big Five in the southern right whale, great white shark, Cape fur seal, bottlenose dolphin, and African penguin.

“We enjoy one of the longest coastlines on the continent, bordering two oceans, and with habitats ranging from coral reefs to kelp forests.

“These diverse and unique habitats are, in turn, home to diverse and unique marine life. In fact, about 33% of the country's marine species are endemic, meaning that they cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Peter Knights, Wild Africa Fund CEO, notes that this natural heritage is under serious threat.

“Of the 77 species of fish whose numbers are known, 26 are considered depleted or heavily depleted. The African penguin, having lost 97% of its population, is down to just 10 000 breeding pairs and could be extinct by 2035 if we don’t change course.

“The great white shark, a globally vulnerable species, used to be an iconic tourist attraction for tourists to SA, yet today they’re rarely sighted.”

Given both the importance of our oceans to all life, and the gravity of the threats they face, it’s clear that a widespread action is needed. Going far beyond scientists and politicians, protecting our oceans is everybody’s business.

Engaging the wider public in the task at hand is going to take education, awareness and advocacy - and some are already leading the way.

Weekend Argus