Wildlands Ocean Stewards initiative
The ACEP Biosurrogacy Project has teamed up with Wildlands Conservation Trust, Grindrod Ltd., The Blue Fund, Sea-Quests, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to create The Ocean Stewards initiative. The Blue Fund is a strategic partnership launched by Grindrod and Wildlands to provide funding and support for the sustainable development of coastal communities and conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems.
The Ocean Stewards initiative is a socio-economic development project receiving support from Grindrod as part of the Blue Fund portfolio. The project was launched in recognition of the unprecedented threats facing the oceans, the ailing capacity for effective protection of the oceans, and the crucial link between human prosperity and healthy marine ecosystems and their species. In this regard it is of key relevance to the Phakisa process being driven by government to unlock the economic potential of the oceans, while ensuring environmental sustainability by building capacity for governance and protection of the marine environment.
In South Africa, the ability to meet the challenges of balancing development with environmental sustainability is being compromised by insufficient human capacity within the marine science and conservation management sectors, coupled with a paucity of accessible and affordable infrastructure to conduct science and effective governance and law enforcement. These marine stewardship capacity shortfalls are linked to slow transformation, lack of career-pathing at schools, and the fact that very few undergraduate marine science students continue to post-graduate level. Further, owing to the lack of affordable ship-based platforms even most students who do complete marine science degrees have never conducted any fieldwork at sea and have very little understanding of the offshore environment.
The Ocean Stewards initiative aims to catalyse the emergence of passionate well-equipped ocean stewards, by providing young students with a formative experiential journey that gives them unique insights into marine conservation and inspires them to purse marine science as a career.