By: Dr Judy Mann, Conservation Strategist, SAAMBR
30 January 2021
Seventy years ago today, our organisation started an incredible journey – the founding of a new non-profit NGO dedicated to ocean research and conservation in South Africa. Amazingly, this journey continues today as the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) celebrates its 70th Anniversary. The dream of helping people to secure food sustainably from the sea has developed into the largest and oldest NGO dedicated to marine conservation in South Africa. SAAMBR is the parent organisation for the Oceanographic Research Institute, uShaka Sea World and uShaka Sea World Education.
Since we were founded, SAAMBR has introduced over 20 million people to the wonders of ocean life – firstly at the Durban Aquarium and, since 2004, at uShaka Sea World. For many, a visit to the aquarium is their first opportunity to experience the wonders of the ocean. We work to Inspire our visitors to CARE for the ocean, CONNECT them to life in our seas and EMPOWER them to act for nature.
For the millions of children who have participated in our educational activities, the aquarium represents an opportunity to experience a new world, ponder new career opportunities and become ambassadors for the ocean. In fact, many current marine scientists in South Africa attribute their love of the ocean to a visit to the Durban Aquarium at a young age.
The Oceanographic Research Institute, SAAMBR’s research division, has undertaken applied marine research along much of the east coast of Africa. Our scientists are active in many fields including research on fisheries, estuaries, coral reefs, marine protected areas (MPAs) and coastal zone management. We are especially proud of our contribution to policy through close working relationships with various government agencies. Many of the protected areas along our east coast were declared with input from our scientists and several fish species owe their continued existence to the timely research conducted by our scientists.
Our animal rehabilitation efforts have enabled us to care for stranded seals, turtles, sea snakes, penguins, and many other marine species. Each year our dedicated staff care for many animals that have washed up along our shores. With experience and dedication, our teams have returned most of these animals to the ocean.
We are quite sure that our founders had no idea that their dream would grow to reach so many millions of people and have such direct, positive impacts on the ocean. In 1951 people thought that the ocean was too big for humans to ever impact. We now know differently, as our impact has reached every part of the ocean through pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing and climate change. But we also know that the health of human beings depends on the health of the oceans – we simply must care for the ocean. SAAMBR has been advocating ocean care for over 70 years – truly an NGO established before its time!
We pay tribute to our Council members, staff, volunteers, and animals, past and present. And thank you to all our partners for being an essential part of our journey. We look forward to the next 70 years of helping people to care for the ocean, never has this been as critically important as it is now!