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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Dear Ocean, sorry we didn’t write back

Seagull flying over the Ocean against the backdrop of an orange sunset shared by ocean Generation: experts in Ocean health since 2009.

To protect Earth’s most precious ecosystem – our Ocean – we must first understand its importance. Our Wavemaker Programme empowers young people between 16 – 25 to use their voice and talents to make a positive impact on our blue planet. This piece was written by one of our Wavemakers. Submit your own story.

The Ocean is the world’s most shared resource.

Social, economic and environmental sharing is caring

The Ocean is the world’s most shared resource. The vitality of the Ocean is necessary to support and sustain Earth and here’s why.

Covering over 70% of the planet, our Ocean takes responsibility for regulating our climate and weather from the poles to the equator.

As if her generosity wasn’t enough, the Ocean’s environmental benefits have continued to protect and conserve biodiversity and create global sources of natural carbon sinks. It does this by providing services to ecosystems, including coastal wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs.

Aerial view of a beach and the Ocean shared by Ocean Generation - experts in Ocean health since 2009.

Human health and Ocean health are connected

The health of our Ocean is intimately tied to our health. No, really…with every breath we take, with every drop we drink, we’re connected to her.

Not just physically, but emotionally. When we take a step back to enjoy the magnificent view of our Ocean (whilst adding her to our IG stories #SoGrateful), it welcomes a sense of calmness, for how life can be so gentle and beautiful.

But to take this mentality forward with how we care for her every day is the next essential step.

Why?

Well for one, the Ocean provides us with over 50% of the world’s oxygen.

No matter her physical forms, whether stormy and rough, warm and clear or frigid and cold, she, the Ocean, has always helped us breathe during our time on Earth and should never be gone unnoticed.

What resources does our Ocean provides us with?

The Ocean continues to provide a vast number of economic and social benefits, including: jobs, food, medicine, recreation and wonderment – to name a few.

Our Ocean boosts sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries, which supports the well-being of coastal communities.

“[A healthy Ocean is] critical for combatting rural poverty, ensuring food security, improving nutrition and achieving zero hunger.”

José Graziano da Silva

Economically, about 38 million people rely on the fishing and fish-farming industry, 95% of whom live in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The economic benefits the Ocean provides has sparked several positive domino effects for many communities, including: food security, job security, sustainable trade in Ocean -based goods and services, sustainable shipping, and an attraction to sustainable tourism.

In addition, OECD confirmed that over 90% of the world’s trade uses sea routes thereby making the Ocean a heavily reliant agent to access essential resources and necessities, including food, medical supplies and drugs, and fuel.

It is important that we not only take notice but also speak about how many communities around the world have learnt to grapple and adapt to the Ocean’s gifts – as opposed to altering the Ocean to fit their needs, they learnt to navigate their lifestyles with the Ocean.

Island communities depend on the Ocean for their livelihoods. Image shows a scattering of islands in the Ocean with lush green trees and blue water/

The impact of our Ocean on communities:

Sri Lanka’s Ocean wealth

The island we know today as Sri Lanka has thrived on the Ocean’s economic resources as it has made remarkable contributions to the country’s economy.

Sri Lanka’s coastal zone hosts 1/3 of the country’s population, accommodates over 2/3 of all industrial facilities, and over 80% of tourism infrastructure.

As the Ocean provides social benefits for many communities, the wellbeing dependency on the Ocean is clear. These communities have been able to cultivate a sense of stability and economic growth, through fishing and aquatic agriculture. Moreover, the little island is well known for its touristic cities, from mountain tops to the clear, blue Ocean with its golden sand.

The tropical country’s sandy coast lines continue to attract many tourists to the Ocean, to soak in the sunsets and fresh air – reflecting again on the wonder and wellness the Ocean provides us.

Economic exploitation: The new high school bad boy

Unfortunately, utilising the Ocean‘s resources and services have come at a cost – exploitation and economic dominance.

The Blue Economy was a concept initiated with the goal of sustainably sourcing the Ocean’s resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and healthy ecosystems.

However, this goal became somewhat of a fever dream when humans started to deteriorate marine ecosystems, resulting in widespread biodiversity loss and habitat damage – sort of like when we were content with the High School Musical trilogy, but Disney thought we needed another version which ended up disappointing us…

Although the exploitation of marine resources was apparent in the 17th-19th century – where the Caribbean coral reefs, faced a massive loss of fish and sharks – the consequences are more distinct now.

How is our Ocean’s health today?

Today, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and pollution are some of the major enemies facing the long-term nature of our Ocean. To add to the chaos, deep-sea mining is having a detrimental impact on her physical nature, and hindering on the Ocean’s health and societal benefits.

The power of our Ocean only continues to weaken as it loses its harness over the Earth’s environmental and climate systems due to climate change.

A spike in unprecedented environmental conditions, such as acidification, deoxygenation, more frequent marine heat-waves, and El Niño, and La Niña events are predicted to have severe negative impacts on marine ecosystems and species – and we thought the Kardashians carried all the drama.

While these major shifts in Ocean health may appear to feel ‘far off’ and ‘manageable’, our reliability on the Ocean is having greater deep-rooted effects on different demographics and societies than we know.

With over 3 billion livelihoods depending on the Ocean for jobs, 680 million living in low-lying coastal zones, and food security at risk (noticeably after COVID-19 hit), we need to emphasise, now more than ever, that without our Ocean’s wellbeing looked after, our survival is at stake.

Quote shared by Zayna - an Ocean generation Wavemaker. It says: It is time to rethink our choices and care for the life-support system that has been with us since the start of time.
Zayna is talking about the Ocean. On the image is a seagull against the backdrop of the Ocean.

Our apology to her will not be enough this time. It is time we take accountability and action to restore our Ocean.

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