Every year South Africa celebrates National Marine Week, a period during which we remind ourselves of all that the ocean does to keep us alive. From the air that we breathe, to food, minerals, transport and recreation, healthy oceans are important in keeping us alive.
Covering about 71% of the Earth’s surface, the ocean stores and slowly releases huge amounts of the sun’s energy in the form of heat. Water stores far more heat than air and this enormous heat-storage capacity is critical to the role of the oceans in influencing climate systems. In turn, ocean currents move heat from the tropics to the poles and back again, helping to keep our climate stable.
Having oceans on both sides of South Africa has a major influence on our weather. Maritime air has a moderating influence on coastal climate while also generating the weather systems that affect land. Durban and Port Nolloth are found at about the same latitude, one on the east coast and the other on the west coast of the country. However, the weather in these two places is completely different because of the influence of the sea.
The average annual temperature in Durban is 20.5 degrees Centigrade and rainfall averages 1 000mm per annum. On the west coast the cold Benguela ocean current, which originates in the Southern Ocean, decreases the ambient temperature and lowers rainfall at Port Nolloth, resulting in average daily temperatures of 13.5 degrees Centigrade and rainfall of 50mm per annum.
This example illustrates the importance of our oceans and their influence on our lives. It is up to each of us, in whatever way we can, to reduce our individual impact on the marine environment by going green, saving energy and managing our personal water use and waste.
During National Marine Week 2017 – 11 to 15 October – uShaka Sea World displayed educational posters and engaged with members of the public on ocean-related topics. Visitor from Mahikeng, Khuma Mantlhasi told marine educator Tafaozwa Murungazuva that being respectful of South Africa’s limited natural resources was a way of life for her family.
“Ever since I lived through a drought a number of years ago, I have been very aware of how dependent we are on nature for our survival. I am really enjoying my visit to the aquarium and learning about marine life and how to look after the oceans,” said Mantlhasi.