27 March 2012

TEDxSeaPoint: Our sushi was moved!

Stuart Dickinson and Ingrid Sinclair
Photo by Stuart Dickinson

All it takes is an idea - an idea that transforms into an action, and an action that helps change the world. Using this philosophy, the first TEDxSeaPoint event, Who moved my sushi? was held at the V&A Waterfront on 24 March 2012, and argued that anyone has the power to effect change at a global level.

With this in mind, leading thinkers, activists, scientists and researchers came together to share ideas and explore ways in which to help preserve one of the world’s greatest resources that is exploited on a daily basis – our ocean.

The day was organised by passionate conservationists Mike Markovina and Linda Schonknecht, who have been on a mission to “ignite inspiration” and show that the fight for our ailing ocean resources is not all bad news.

Here are snippets of some of the inspirational talks given at the event over the weekend, including some from Aquarium staff members.

Hayley McLellan

Two Oceans Aquarium Senior Bird Trainer Hayley McLellan is passionate about penguins (she’s championing the Waddle for a Week cause for the endangered African penguin here in the Western Cape). She’s passionate about her job, too (there’s no other way to be here at the Aquarium) – she landed a job at the age of 19 as an apprentice animal behaviourist and has never looked back.

However, currently, Hayley’s biggest wish goes beyond the confines of aquarium exhibits. She wants to see the complete ban of the single-use plastic bag in South Africa.

In her hard-hitting talk, which inspired many of the attendees to give up the plastic bag, Hayley presented some shocking statistics: 4% of the world’s oil production goes into making plastic bags; Cape Town has about five years left before her landfills are full and in every 1km of ocean there are 46 000 pieces of plastic.

The effects of plastic on ocean life are devastating. Big and small fish, turtles, marine mammals and birds consume the plastic, mistaking it for food, and die as a result.

Hayley’s passion has infected us here at the Aquarium and we have banned the plastic bag in our place of work. We urge you to do the same.

Khonzani Lembeni

Khonzani Lembeni engages with students in the Two Oceans Environmental Education Centre

Khonzani Lembeni, a charismatic teacher at the Aquarium’s Environmental Education Centre, had the TEDx audience hooked from his opening act. By performing a magic trick he explained how he helps get children living in informal communities excited about conserving our oceans.

“It’s not like they don’t want to connect with nature, they just don’t know anything about it,” said Khonzani.

With help from the Aquarium, Khonzani managed to organise a mobile classroom, and he now takes children through the entire process of connecting with nature – from adventures out in the field and cleaning up nearby wetlands, to waste recycling and explaining the effect of pollution on the ocean.

By instilling the importance of ocean conservation to the youngsters, Khonzani believes these children will help pass on the message to their peers and subsequent generations.

“Magic is for everyone, and the ocean is magic,” said Khonzani.

JD Kotze

Investigator JD Kotze has helped local and international authorities throw the book at corporate big shots in the fishing industry, making them pay for “ruthlessly raping our oceans” through overfishing. Despite an illustrious career, he still humbly refers to himself as “just a policeman” doing his job.

JD used the TEDxSeaPoint stage to explain the way in which organised crime plagues the industry, and told the story of how he helped bring down a chairman of a major fishing corporation who had been accused of, among other things, illegally exporting 900 tonnes of lobster per year to sister companies in the United States. 

One of JD’s biggest problems is that the corporations operate as if what they are doing is legal, which he claims is not the case. He said: “We need to gain international co-operation and attack the godfathers of the fishing industry, because if we don’t, soon we won’t have anything left in our oceans to protect.”

Chris Fischer

Charismatic adventurer, researcher and founder of OCEARCH, Chris Fischer, helped pioneer the method now used to capture and release live shark specimens in order to collect new data on breeding and feeding habits.

For Chris, sharks are the great balance keepers of the ocean, and he is shocked at how quickly they are being eliminated because of greed and skewed perceptions.

“We don’t understand much about these creatures; there is a big knowledge gap generally,” said Chris. “We needed to study a live, mature specimen in order to close that gap and push the body of knowledge forward.”

Chris and his team managed to capture, tag and release a massive 4.8m great white shark, they named Amy, which gave them access to groundbreaking data.

“By using this live data, we managed to solve the puzzle of white shark migration, and for the first time managed to track down a birthing site.” 

The team also uncovered migratory corridors, feeding areas and breeding areas of this species, which ultimately provided the data necessary to help shut down rampant fishing operations in the Sea of Cortez – a popular feeding ground of the great white shark.

Watch this space

Our sushi was moved at TEDxSeaPoint. We’ll be posting more blogs about this immensely inspiring event, spreading the ideas worth sharing.

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