Diving into Kalk Bay: Exploring its past, present, future 

My earliest, enduring memory of the Ocean is a stretch of sea rolling away from a vibrant fishing harbour in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.  

The harbour’s position along the False Bay Coast, as well as its rich marine life, played a crucial role in the city’s early development and prosperity. Little this place would also play an important role in my own life. 

Kalk Bay: A link to my childhood and the last connection to my grandmother.

The colourful fishing boats in the harbour that frame the glorious, shimmering stretch of Ocean in my mind like a postcard, idealised to a point far from reality. Today, with names like Star of the Sea and Lucky Strike, those old wooden boats seem struck in a rapidly receding past.

Change has come in great variety and moved with incredible momentum. All aspects of the scene have been altered – from the oceanography and to the social structures and human dimension surrounding the harbour. 

I find it interesting and unsurprising, that when asked to think of a memory about the Ocean, the one I recall is so entangled with the influence of mankind. These two elements – human and Ocean – have been linked for centuries and seem unable to escape one another.

Wavemaker Story by Katie about Kalk Bay, Cape Town's past, present and future.

I feel this tension reflected in the complex and often contradictory nature of our social and ecological aims moving forwards as a society.

Progression too often comes at the high cost of our marine health, a lack of respect for our past and insufficient foresight for our future. All of this points to the difficulty in honouring and preserving our collective pasts whilst building future horizons in sustainable ways.

New strategies for managing the natural environment and its resources should include integrated approaches with new frameworks, stakeholders and communities. 

Kalk Bay as we see it today  

The Kalk Bay area may be reminiscent of the past, but the issues it faces are very much of the present. The harbour is one of the few still in operation, albeit a far cry from its thriving commercial days. Subsistence fishing (the practice of catching fish for personal consumption and not profit) is carried out with a handful of crayfish boats heading out each day. 

With reduced operation has come tourism and commercialisation. You will find restaurants, pop up stalls selling gimmicks, and seals, who emboldened and adjusted to the crowds, sunbathe on the jetty.     

Seal sunbathing on the jetty at Kalk Bay, Cape Town.

Just as the Ocean below has been altered by rising sea levels and an increased frequency of extreme temperature events, so too has the harbour. Unsurprisingly, the advancements and demands of modern life have been the indirect driving forces behind this change.

All the usual culprits – overfishing, climate change, overpopulation, and coastal development- are part of this problem.  Fish stocks caused by overfishing and the violations of size regulations have impacted marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of local fisherman. 

Coastal development have also contributed significantly to these detrimental changes by increasing pollutant runoff and nutrient loading.

This illustrates just how interrelated Ocean and coastal ecosystems are and how integral they are to both human and aquatic life.

Progression at Kalk Bay, Cape Town too often comes at the high cost of our marine health, a lack of respect for our past and insufficient foresight for our future. Article by Ocean Generation, leaders in Ocean education.

Not all hope is lost for Kalk Bay  

Thankfully, there’s been a growing awareness of and respect for some of these pressing human-made threats, which has led to the establishment of marine protected areas. Currently, 15 % of South Africa’s total marine areas are protected with 1.7 % of this area fully protected.

Evidently, the South African constitution recognises the need for these conservation efforts and acknowledges the responsibility that the fishing and tourism industries have.

Eco-tourism has emerged as a way of protecting and sustainably using the environment, without negatively impacting economic growth and job security.  

A growing awareness in South Africa has led to the establishment of marine protected areas.

We need solutions that engage local communities living in coastal areas. This would encourage the safeguarding of natural resources, improve the quality of people’s lives, and potentially assist in building bridges between sections of South African society that has historically been divided.

Approaches such as these work towards achieving a balance between developmental goals and environmental concerns; it’s of course an ongoing process. Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly research and address the priorities and gaps in this area with input from various stakeholders.

Katie, a Wavemaker tells us: My grandmother’s childhood saw the days when man could still outrun his actions without stopping to catch his breath and consider the implications.

My grandmother’s childhood saw the days when man could still outrun his actions without stopping to catch his breath and consider any of the implications. The harmony between human and Ocean that existed was only ever on a short-term loan, one with dangerously high interest.

The future seemed as it always does to those on the shores of the present: An island far away.

Katie, a Wavemaker shares this quote: My faith in the [...] next generation of changemakers gives me hope for the future of our marine and coastal ecosystems.

The generation of young people to which I belong to understand that preservation isn’t about merely respecting the present but also about securing the future. Therefore, my faith in the collective creativity and problem-solving abilities of the next generation of changemakers gives me hope for the future of our marine and coastal ecosystems.


Thank you for raising your voice for the Ocean, Katie!

Connect with Katie Birditt via LinkedIn or her Instagram page. Learn about how to submit your own Wavemaker Story here.

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The world was our oyster, when the oysters became our world

A seagrass meadow in Scotland part of the Seawilding marine conservation project. Image by Philip Price / Seawilding shared via Ocean Generation's Wavemaker Stories.

An experience paving the way for community-led marine conservation.  

Like many of us, until recently I had only ever associated oysters with gourmet restaurants and fine dining, an out of reach delicacy plucked from some distant, murky seabed.

After working with oysters, they are now a familiar part of the local marine wildlife, and a hugely important component in the global effort to restore and conserve our Ocean.  

I spent my summer interning with Seawilding, a community-led marine habitat restoration organisation in Scotland. Their mission is to restore seagrass meadows and native oyster reefs, through planting seagrass, growing oysters to form new reefs, and developing successful methods that others can follow, to enable coastal communities across the UK and further afield to take action.  

Woman diving into the Ocean shared by Ocean Generation in a Wavemaker Story. There's a quote that reads: I spent my summer [...] restoring seagrass meadows and native oyster reefs. Photo by Sophie Coxton.
Photo by Wavemaker Story writer Sophie Coxon.

The seascape of Loch Craignish  

Set on the gleaming shores of Loch Craignish, the first time I slipped under the surface was like entering a whole other world.

The salty water enveloped me with an icy embrace, and the seabed materialised below. Vast meadows of seagrass glistened green, with dappled sunlight sparkling through the water column and catching the tails of Goldsinny wrasse and the occasional lonely pipefish.

Snakelock anemones waved like flowers from the grass heads, and red feather stars snaked their arms towards me as I glided past.  

The fringes of the meadow gave way to soft mudflats, where sparring crabs and dancing prawns entertained passersby. Gobies and flatfish buried themselves in the sand, and large shoals of herring flicked like glassy shards in the distant blue.  

Ocean photo.

The oyster reef was by far my favourite; thick layers of oyster shells stacked haphazardly covered the seafloor, carpeted by algae, barnacles and clumps of bladderwrack.

Fish darted in and out of crevices, startled by my shadow, and starfish lay clustered on the rocks, arms splayed as if holding hands. The plethora of animals, and the richness of the life surrounding me was quite literally breathtaking, so much so that I almost choked on the seawater a number of times.

It was inspiring to see so much diversity thriving in Scotland’s waters.

The work Seawilding’s team has achieved is clearly doing wonders for the wildlife of Loch Craignish, however this is only the tip of the iceberg in the marine conservation and restoration work we need to undertake, not only here in Scotland but across the Ocean.  

Two images of marine conservation activities: Restoring oyster reefs in Scotland and helping restore sea grass meadows. Images taken by Sophie Coxton and shared by Ocean Generation.
Photos by Wavemaker Story writer Sophie Coxon.

The health of the Ocean is essential to us, not only as societies through its cultural significance, but also through its physical services.

Without healthy marine ecosystems, food stability will crumble, coastal erosion will rapidly creep up on communities, and the impacts of climate change will be less cushioned and more sorely felt.  

Scotland’s marine wildlife: Then and now 

Scotland’s coasts were once prolific with wildlife. Historic records speak of rivers “overflowing with salmon, onto the banks”, estuaries that had seemingly endless shellfish stocks, and open Ocean brimming with endless shoals of fish.

Oysters were once the food of the poor, and lobster was a common centerpiece at every dinner table. Lush seagrass meadows flanked the shorelines and wildlife flourished, everywhere. 

We must start taking Ocean action to prevent further losses. Quote shared by Ocean Generation in an article about marine conservation programmes in the UK.

Now, there are no natural oyster reefs left off Scotland’s coast, and more than half of the original seagrass meadows have disappeared.

Dredging (removing sediments from the seabed), overfishing, and pollution threaten our coastlines more than ever before, and with the pressures of climate change increasing with each day, we must start taking action to prevent further losses

Seawilding’s work, enthusiasm and passion for the marine environment is a sparkling example of how communities can come together to create real, positive change – something we should all strive towards.


Thank you for raising your voice for the Ocean, Sophie!

Connect with Sophie via LinkedIn or her Instagram page. Learn about how to submit your own Wavemaker Story here.

Disclaimer: Ocean Generation has no official affiliation with Seawildling. Mention of or reference to Seawildling is not an endorsement or sponsorship by Ocean Generation. The views, opinions, and activities of Seawildling are independent of Ocean Generation.

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Why is the Ocean so important?

Ocean wave crashing on a rock. Shared by Ocean Generation in an article about why the Ocean is important.

Introducing the Ocean: Our most precious, life-giving, climateregulating, yet recklessly exploited, undervalued, and underfunded resource.  

Covering over 70% of our blue planet and holding roughly 97% of the world’s water, the Ocean provides the foundation for all living things. From the smallest plankton to the largest animal to have ever lived (the blue whale). And that’s just the beginning of why the Ocean is important.

Energy is cycled across its single, interconnected system; keeping everything in balance. It allows all life to exist together in harmony. 

The Ocean makes up over 90% of all habitable space on Earth.  

Just think about that. All the rainforests, grasslands, mountain ranges and deserts combined with every town, city and village of human civilisation make up less than 10% of the liveable space on our planet.  

Everything else is Ocean.  

The Ocean exists on a scale beyond our understanding. ocean facts shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean health.

An Ocean which is home to the world’s largest mountain range (the Mid Ocean Ridge is over seven times longer than the Andes).

And the world’s deepest canyon. (Challenger Deep is six times deeper than the Grand Canyon and could easily swallow Mount Everest.) 

This vast, interconnected body of water exists on a scale so large that it’s almost beyond the realm of our understanding. 

But we need to understand why the Ocean is important.  

The Ocean defines our planet and provides the very foundation of our existence 

If it could talk, the Ocean would be able to tell us all about the dinosaurs, the ice age, and how Stonehenge or Egypt’s pyramids were really built. The Ocean watched as the earliest Homo Sapiens (that’s us) took our first footsteps. It may even hold the secrets to the very beginning of life on Earth.  

Two circle images beside each other: One of the pyramids in Egypt and another of a calm Ocean scene. Ocean Generation is sharing why the Ocean is so important in this article.

To look back at the history of the Ocean is to look back at the history of life itself.  

For millions of years, the Ocean has provided the conditions required for the evolution of all living things. The Ocean burst into life during the Cambrian explosion (the *relatively* sudden radiation and divergence of complex life forms) around 538.8 million years ago and has seen all five mass extinction events since. 

Make that six.  

At this very moment, we are living through the sixth mass extinction event. Research shows that species are now going extinct between 100 and 1,000 times faster than natural, background extinction rates.  

The delicate balance of life which has been slowly ticking along for millions of years has taken decades to unravel.  

According to the IUCN Red List, over 44,000 assessed species are threatened with extinction.  

It’s almost impossible to comprehend that we are hurtling towards destruction on a scale comparable to that caused by a colossal asteroid collision 66 million years ago. (That, the last mass extinction event, wiped out the dinosaurs).   

Except this time, humanity are both the asteroid and the dinosaurs.  

A pod of dolphins swimming in the Ocean shared by Ocean Generation.

 

Is the Ocean too vast to feel our impact?  

People used to think the Ocean existed on such an infinite, untouchable scale that nothing we, people, could do would affect its limitless bounty.  

“Man marks the earth with ruin – his control stops with the shore…”

– Lord Byron, Nineteenth Century.
Sunset image of the Ocean and a pink sky. Shared by Ocean Generation the global charity providing Ocean education to everyone, everywhere.

We now know that this is wrong.  

Throughout the last decades, our Ocean has been heating up. It’s becoming more acidic, choking in plastic, drained of its fish stocks, and pumped with toxic chemicals at a rate far beyond which it can sustain.  

We have borne witness to record breaking temperatures, mass coral-bleaching and glacial melting events. Now, we are hurtling towards a ‘new normal’ in which instability and volatility are centre stage. 

We have been recklessly exploiting our Ocean system.  

We have watched as records are broken time and time again.  

But in 2023, the Ocean temperature record wasn’t just broken, it was absolutely obliterated. 

In fact, the entire upper 2000m of the Ocean experienced shatteringly high temperatures. As this surface layer heats up, it’s less able to mix with deep water below. As a result, surface oxygen content has decreased.  

Image of a glacier in the Ocean with the quote: In 2023, the Ocean temperature record wasn’t just broken, it was absolutely obliterated.

This isn’t only detrimental to marine ecosystems, but it also slows the Ocean’s life-saving ability to sequester (remove and store) atmospheric carbon dioxide.  

The global water cycle has also been amplified by our warming Ocean. For us on land, this means stronger, longer droughts as well as intensified rainfall, storm, and flooding events.  

Restoring the Ocean starts on land – with us.

Just like how people once thought the Ocean was too large to feel our impacts. Now, it may seem like our impacts are too large to solve. But we know this isn’t true.  

We have the technology, the knowledge, and the power to turn the tide and reverse our trajectory. 

We know this because we’re in many parts of the world, it’s already happening.  

Effectively managed Marine Protected Areas, Maximum Sustainable Yields (the maximum catch size that can be removed from a population to maintain a healthy and sustainable fish stock), and the rise in renewable energy technologies are all ways in which humanity has learned to collaborate more fairly with nature.  

Rainbow over a beach and the Ocean with the quote: We have the opportunity to leave our Ocean in a better state than we found it. Shared by Ocean Generation, leaders in environmental education.

Working with the Ocean rather against it can reap limitless benefits for both people and planet. If the Ocean thrives, so do we.

This knowledge is power.  
Power to be part of the solution, to consider the cost of inaction and unite to ensure our Ocean’s health is considered in all decisions – personal, business, and government policies.  

We have a unique opportunity to be the first generation to leave our precious Ocean in a better state than we found it. 

Your actions may feel like a drop in the Ocean, but together we can make waves of change.  

Start by signing up to our newsletter and reading about 15 climate actions you can take to restore our Ocean. Learn more about why the Ocean is important by adding it to your scroll via your favourite social platform:

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