Totally hooked after my first Marine Workshop
Last week, for the first time, I was selected to assist at a Marine Workshop, one of uShaka Sea World's special courses specifically designed for resource users and managers. This was a new experience for me since I am usually found in the Aquarium, chatting informally to guests, answering their questions and sharing my marine knowledge with anyone eager to learn.
When I was told that I would be assisting on the course, I felt a bit intimidated by the apparent formality of the proposed proceedings. The course was to take place in the uShaka Sea World Education Centre over two days, with approximately 20 delegates scheduled to attend. The delegates came from all over KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and ranged from subsistence harvesters to KZN Wildlife Resource managers.
My apprehension dissolved within the first half-hour as we introduced ourselves, and they chatted about their reasons for attending the workshop. I soon realised that there was a lot I could share with them.
We discussed fisheries resource management, population dynamics and the various fisheries found along the KZN coastline, before exploring the four intertidal zones affected by marine resource users.
It is said that the intertidal zone – the area between spring high-water and spring low-water marks – is one of the most stressful habitats on Earth. The intertidal fringe begins at the low-tide mark, while the littorina zone begins at the high-tide mark or upper-shore area. Between these two zones are the upper balanoid zone, where barnacles are dominant, and the lower balanoid zone, where mussels and seaweed proliferate.
After lunch we split up and I chose to dissect a fish and a mussel for my group, which gave me the chance to explain some interesting aspects of marine biology.
I concentrated on reproductive organs, body shape, feeding and information receptors. Once everyone had a firm understanding of what it takes to be a fish or a mussel, and how much effort these creatures put into staying alive and reproducing, we explored the threats facing marine organisms and the probable consequences of irresponsible fishing and harvesting practices.
There were times when the discussions became passionate as different ideas, needs and challenges were explained and solutions sought. This spirit of co-operation between resource users and managers was clearly working, and I felt humbled and honoured as a marine educator to have been part of it.
I was relieved that the course was of two days' duration, since there were still many questions that we needed to discuss when home time rolled around on the first day.
My first Marine Workshop was a great success, and I can safely say that I am totally hooked!
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