December 17, 2014

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Dr. Sylvia Earle was in South Africa last week as a guest of Mission Blue partner Sustainable Seas Trust to launch new Community Hope Spots off the shores of South Africa. All in all six Community Hope Spots were launched: False Bay (all of False Bay from Cape Point to Cape Agulhas); Cape Whale Coast (stretches from Rooi Els to Quoin Point and includes offshore islands, just over 200km of coast line and then out to sea); Knysna (includes the Knysna Estuary and marine coast and offshore waters), Plett Hope Spot (links the Robberg MPA to Tsitsikamma MPA), Algoa Bay and the islands (this sanctuary area includes the principal breeding colonies of the African penguin, now down to 2% of historical population levels) and the Aliwal Shoal area in KwaZulu-Natal. In total this is a good piece of the South African Coast as a launchpad for further ocean conservation in the region.

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The team at False Bay

The group was also honored to be joined by I Am Water Conservation Trust, another Mission Blue partner and a remarkable group of passionate ocean lovers. Speaking of the experience touring South Africa with Dr. Sylvia Earle, I Am Water founder Hanli Prinsloo wrote in a blog article:

“Cape Town is not called the Cape of Storms for no reason – and December is a notoriously windy month! Friday the 5th was no exception! Dr Sylvia Earle arrived to a windswept False Bay, white caps chasing each other across glass-green water. Braving rolling swells and tossing surge,  Mission Blue’s Kip Evans with a big camera in hand descended into the kelp forests, leaving the choppy surface to enter a world of quiet and abundance. As this part of the False Bay Hope Spot is a Marine Protected Area and no take zone, large reef fish, abalone and a proliferation of smaller sharks and critters entertain scuba divers and freedivers alike.”

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Mission Blue’s Kip Evans interviews Dr. Sylvia Earle and I Am Water Conservation Trust Founder & CEO Hanli Prinsloo

These Community Hope Spots were chosen in collaboration with the Sustainable Seas Trust on a variety of criteria, including scientific justification, definable boundaries, ecological imperative, public support potential and more. All in all, the approach was a people-centric model consistent with Dr. Earle’s wish to ignite public support and develop communities of caring people. The hope is that by involving people in a genuine fashion, their positive action, their example and the networks that they develop will have positive ramifications locally, nationally and regionally for the sake of the ocean. Also involved in these Community Hope Spot announcements was the national government, provincial governments, municipalities (a few mayors were ecstatic to meet Dr. Earle), business chambers, academia, schools, clubs, societies, NGOs and more in the development of the Community Hope Spots.

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The Coast of South Africa

Public support has indeed been ignited. In each Community Hope Spot there were multi-stakeholder committees and task groups to develop these Community Hope Spots into sustainable, responsibly-conserved ocean ecosystems. There are also now endowment trust funds for every Community Hope Spot declared in the region. In theory, such a trust should support the Community Hope Spots in perpetuity once they grow to a large enough size – cause for real hope for these pristine but stressed ecosystems!

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Raising awareness in the South African press

Many thanks to Mission Blue partners Scuba Pro, Light and Motion, Sustainable Seas Trust, I am Water Conservation Trust, Shark Explorers, and Kip Evans Photography for all your hard word and collaboration on this very successful trip. We can’t wait to visit again!

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