“We want people to understand the connection between people and nature,” says Jean Harris, the executive director of WildOceans — a platform for a coastal community-based “citizen science” movement that aims to benefit the coastline and its inhabitants, both animal and human.
The Wild Trust board expanded its work to include a programme on the marine environment four years ago, and that’s when Harris was brought on board.
Among the projects WildOceans oversees is Oceans Stewards, which takes young science students on its own research vessel to sea. These trips have increased awareness about the ocean among the youth. WildOceans organised an Africa Youth Summit, which was attended by more than 500 delegates. “It’s about giving youth the knowledge and allowing them to make change and reform the wrongs we made in the past,” Harris says.
Another important project is to expand the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). South Africa currently has about 5% of its marine areas protected, but it should be about 30%. Recognising this gap, WildOceans has embarked on an urgent campaign called Ocean iMPAct for South Africa to expand to 10%. MPAs are important tools to fight climate change.
MPAs sometimes have a bad reputation in coastal communities that are excluded from their benefits. WildOceans recognises that even environmental organisations must work for people, and need to help people to prosper from nature.
WildOceans backs up its advocacy and campaigning with science. Given the urgency of climate change and the state of our oceans, Harris says WildOceans is definitely part of the movement for crucial change.
“It’s about giving youth the knowledge and allowing them to make change and reform the wrongs we made in the past.”