SA Agulhas II leads Africa-led scientific research cruise

SA Agulhas II leads Africa-led scientific research cruise
SA Agulhas II leads Africa-led scientific research cruise

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says the second international Indian Ocean Expedition, which will see the SA Agulhas II depart from Durban on Wednesday next week, will help access data that can be used to prepare for ocean-related challenges in developing countries.

The Minister said this when addressing research scientists during a send-off ceremony at the Cape Town Waterfront on Friday.

“The Indian Ocean remains one of the least studied ocean regions and billions of people are relying on the Indian ocean, often living under vulnerable community situations in their countries.

“And our improved understanding of the Indian Ocean, how it impacts on countries and their people, will allow much more better local planning and implementation of our programmes for the betterment of the lives of our people.

“And this improved knowledge has equally important functions – it will allow countries to better plan for threats associated with climate change, including storm surges, sea level rising and coastal erosion.

“It also offers the living and non-living resources related to fishing, transportation, mining and tourism as information we can actually use to access those very important resources,” the Minister said.

The SA Agulhas II is scheduled to leave Cape Town on Saturday to Durban, where it will be anchored from Monday until the beginning of the expedition on Wednesday.

The expedition is a multi-national programme of the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) which emphasises the need to research the Indian Ocean and its influence on the climate and its marine ecosystem.

South Africa’s contribution to the expedition is an African research cruise along the East of Africa from the SA Agulhas II.

The Minister said the first multidisciplinary African-led scientific research cruise will see scientists and students from South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt all collaborate on the expedition.

The first International Indian Ocean Expedition took place in the 1960s.

The Minister said soon, the outcomes of the expedition will help South Africa and other African governments to become less dependent on developed countries and multi-national corporations for data.

“It is our hope that South Africa’s contribution to this research platform will stimulate regional interest by older and especially younger scientific minds. I am specifically proud of our researchers that will be working on this cruise with our regional friends,” she said.

The Minister said the SA Agulhas II is a research and polar vessel that was built in 2012 and is named after SA’s music icon, the late Miriam Makeba.

Ashley Johnson, the Director of Ocean Research at the department of Environmental Affairs, said the voyage, which will see the SA Agulhas II explore the oceans between Durban and Tanzania, will be a month-long cruise with a number of stops.

“What we are trying to do firstly is to get the region to have a coordinated approach to ocean science. We also cannot assume that everyone has the same level of understanding. So the cruise is ultimately aimed at trying to build capacity across the region but while you are undertaking science, what we are trying to achieve is to get a baseline of information because without the baseline, you can’t do anything else.

“The baseline is the foundation of what we are trying to do so we measure a large range of parameters – the physics, the chemistry, the biodiversity, the biology and while we are doing that, we are training our fellow Africans in understanding the ocean space and that would then place countries in a better position in the future to have a coordinated approach to also develop their own ocean economies because without the information, you can’t do that,” he said.

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