07 June 2013

World Oceans Day – flying the flag for sustainability

Stuart Buchanan and Helen Lockhart

big catch flags japan two oceans aquarium cape town south africa
Big catch flags at the Aquamarine Fukushima. Below are some of the winning flag designs. Images courtesy of Two Oceans Aquarium
Come and join us at the Two Oceans Aquarium as we celebrate World Oceans Day on 8 June.

We fly the flag for marine conservation and ocean sustainability every day of the year, but this weekend we will be flying actual flags in the upper gallery as part of World Oceans Day.

These beautiful flags were officially handed to Dr Patrick Garratt, Director of the Two Oceans Aquarium, by Yoshitaka Abe, Director of the Aquamarine Fukushima in Japan, during the 8th International Aquarium Congress, which took place in Cape Town in September 2012.

The flags were the winning designs in the 2012 “Big Catch Flag Tournament”, part of the International Environmental Art Festival in Japan. Designers from around that country participate in the tournament, and their designs are judged by representatives of the fishery union and ship-owners of the Port Onahama district.

Guardian angels

In Japanese tradition, the big catch flags are raised in fishing villages as “guardian angels” to pray for sustainable catches and for the safety of the fishermen. Ship-owners present a flag to their fishermen to reward them for their catch or when launching a new ship. The big catch flags are also raised on ships to tell those waiting at the port that a big catch is on its way in.

These traditions are based on the Japanese native Shinto religion to worship “Shichi Fukujin”, the seven spirits of good luck.

It is said that the pattern on the big catch flags originated from Maiwai-Gi, the formal dress of Kimono for fishermen. The flags, with their different characteristics and brilliantly bright colours, are conspicuous from far away.

Aquariums call for sustainable fisheries worldwide

Over-fishing is one of the biggest issues facing oceans and governments, and fisheries are urged to practise sustainable fishing methods. The Aquamarine Fukushima uses the big catch flags as icons to send out the message about the need for sustainable fisheries.

“For several years we have had a close association with the Fukushima Aquarium and we have come to respect Dr Abe’s tireless efforts to instil in the youth of Japan an appreciation of the oceans and a deep respect for their inhabitants,” says Dr Garratt.

cape point two oceans aquarium cape town south africa
Cape Point. Photo courtesy Crouch 24/7

Oceans of fun

There’s plenty to see and do at the Two Oceans Aquarium on World Oceans Day:

If you’re in the Hermanus area on 8 and 9 June, check out the 40Fathoms Film Festival, happening at the Whale House Museum.

The 40Fathoms Film Festival was conceived by the South African Shark Conservancy to celebrate World Oceans Day. It showcases underwater filmmaking talent and emphasises marine conservation concerns and success stories on a regional and global scale.

A wonderful selection of local and international short and feature films will highlight the complexity, diversity and beauty of the Earth’s oceans, as well as the issues they face today. Several award-winning films will be screened, while the highlight of the festival will no doubt be the specialist discussion panel on World Oceans Day (8 June) at 18h30, which follows the screening of Planet Ocean. Watch the trailer below:


For more information about the 40Fathoms Film Festival, download the programme here.

See also

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