September 15, 2018

The Marine Dynamics / Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT,) together with the Overstrand Municipality partnered for International Coastal Clean Up day, doing the 1,5km stretch of rocky coastline from the Gansbaai Caravan Park towards the tidal pool. International Coastal Clean Up Day is a global movement with all trash recorded going into the South African database with PlasticsSA and the global database held by Ocean Conservancy. Various members of the public joined the clean-up, as did the DICT’s Environmental Education Programme (DEEP) accompanied by a few of their parents. Other groups included Laerskool Gansbaai, Gansbaai Primer, Gansbaai Academia, Grootbos, and International Marine Volunteers. In total there were 58 children and 20 adults. The Development and Planning division of the Department of Environmental Affairs kindly donated goodie bags for the DEEP children.

At the end of the clean-up there were 40 bags weighing 100,25 Kg’s. Top finds: Glass pieces 736 / Plastic pieces 517 / Straws/Sticks 314 /Cigarette butts 306. Strangest items found: Candles, Batteries, Shoe hangers, Umbrella. Pinkey Ngewu of the Trust had this to say, “Every person, every action, every bucket full of plastic removed from the beach can make the ocean a little bit healthier. Let’s love the ocean and refuse unnecessary plastic, one of the top known ocean pollutants.”

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September 06, 2018

Arbor Day is an environmental awareness day in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant trees. Though usually observed in the spring, the date varies, depending on climate and suitable planting season. South Africa first celebrated this event in 1983 and it is now celebrated for a week in September. The event captured the imagination of people who recognised the need for raising awareness of the value of trees in our society. As sources of building material, food, medicine, and simple scenic beauty, trees play a vital role in the health and well-being of our communities. The Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s Environmental Education Programme known as DEEP in partnership with Overstrand Municipality, Marine Dynamics and International Marine Volunteers participated in community "greening" event by planting trees (Wild olive and Cape ash) at the local high school, Gansbaai Academia, to improve the health and beauty of the school environment and create a green future for South Africa.

A medium-sized, evergreen tree, the wild olive (Olea europaea) is found throughout Africa, Arabia, India and China. Its sweetly scented flowers are creamy-white and appear from Spring through to Summer, followed by the small, deep purply-black fruit which when ripe are enjoyed by a host of birds and other animals.  The Wild olive tree is protected in South Africa. The Cape ash (Ekebergia capensis) is a large attractive evergreen tree and found in South Africa, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Like the Wild olive, its fruit is enjoyed by birds and mammals. Both trees will provide shade and protection from the wind.

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Humpback Whale Stranding

August 17, 2018 Meredith Thornton: Research Coordinator, Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Earlier this week the Dyer Island Conservation Trust received a call about a whale on the rocks at Skulpiesbaai, near Stanford’s Cove. Upon arriving on site our Research Coordinator, Meredith Thornton, confirmed that the whale was freshly dead, and either died at sea within the last 24 hours, or came ashore alive overnight. The team then proceeded to collect a full suite of photographs, along with numerous standardised scientific measurements. The whale was an 8.3m juvenile female humpback whale and no cause of death was apparent.

After measurements were complete, skin and blubber samples were collected, along with sub-samples of the numerous barnacles and cyamids that live on the surface of the whale. These little free-riding animals are both crustaceans. The cyamids eat whale skin, roaming all over the body with their sharp claws, but mostly live in folds and crevices around the eyes, genital slits and where the pectoral fins join the body. They also inhabit wounded or diseased areas and find shelter in areas where there are barnacles present. Barnacles and whales usually live in a commensal relationship, where the barnacles benefit by hitching a free ride to wherever the oceans are rich in plankton, upon which they feed, while the whale is unharmed. However, sometimes barnacles can proliferate to such an extent that the whale is negatively impacted and the relationship becomes parasitic.

The Overstrand Municipality responded with great efficiency and the carcass was cut into four pieces and removed to the dump by nightfall. Fortunately, this animal was small for a humpback whale, making it more manageable at about 8 tons. Adult humpback whales are usually 14-15m long, weighing approximately 40 tons! Humpback whale populations have recovered exceptionally well since whaling finally ended in the 1960’s.

Interns from the Marine Dynamics Academy assisted at the stranding and had the following to say about their experience:

“On August 14th, 2018, I saw my first beached humpback whale- and if I could choose a word to describe the experience, it would be bittersweet. When we first arrived to the rocky beach where the expired whale was stranded, I felt sadness that such a beautiful creature had passed away. However, I learned that it's important to separate emotion from scientific thought, since the death of the whale also contributes heavily to marine biology research and gives us an essential peek into the workings of life under the ocean surface. Having only specialized in human physiology and anatomy, I was initially disoriented while examining the humpback whale with Meredith. I learned many valuable skills, such as whale anatomy, measuring whales, taking samples of blubber and barnacles, and many miscellaneous facts. Halfway through the examination, and after asking many questions, which Meredith answered patiently, similarities between my knowledge of human biology and this new whale biology jumped out at me. With these revelations, a sense of awe dawned upon me. It's fascinating to me that life can take such diverse forms and yet still have biological similarities. Equally as captivating were the unique differences between life forms, making us all so different, yet still the same.“ [Clisha D'Souza]

“As upsetting as it is to see such a beautiful creature in this state on the rocks, the opportunity to get so close to a humpback whale from a scientific perspective was invaluable, and one I never imagined I would have here with Marine Dynamics. I was particularly surprised to find such an abundance of barnacles and lice living off the whale’s skin. This gave me a new appreciation for the unique and complex role these whales play within a greater ecosystem and enhanced my passion to work towards its conservation. Working with Meredith to take measurements and samples so soon after the whale’s passing was inspiring, as she demonstrated how the death of these beached animals, though tragic, are never in vain. Rather, every effort is made to give them a dignified legacy by contribution to science.“ [Anna Harrison]

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust is a member of the Overstrand Stranding Network – a collaborative group of organisations that ensure as much information as possible is retrieved from every stranding, live animals are refloated or euthanised if necessary and that carcasses are disposed of safely if they come ashore in a built-up area.

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August 02, 2018

Grant has a master’s degree in critical psychology and has spent 30 years in the natural world, first as a professional field guide and then as Managing Director of The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). He has a full national certificate in nature and culture guiding and is qualified to guide in dangerous game areas.

It is through his professional qualifications and love of the bush and more recently the marine environment, that he has developed several programmes to help us to not only reconnect with nature but also to reconnect with ourselves. If we are to survive as a species we need to learn to commune with nature rather than exploit it.

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International Plastic Bag Free Day 2018

July 03, 2018

July is plastic awareness month, aiming at combating single use plastic items. The Theme for this year is: “It’s high time to create a Plastic Bag Free World!” Tuesday 3rd July was added to the environmental calendar as International Plastic Bag Free Day (IPBFD) - dedicated to heightening awareness about the issues brought about by this most popular of disposable carrying devices. We are reminded that these bags we pick up from the retailers are used for a very short time, usually around 25 minutes, and are then disposed. They may pass out of our thinking then, but they do not pass out of our world. Plastic bags remain in the world for anywhere from 100-500 years before finally decaying completely, and have a profound impact upon our environment as a result.

Every day millions of plastic bags are being disposed. The issue is pressing and campaigns like that of Two Oceans Aquarium’s Rethink the Bag have been instrumental in encouraging stores and consumers to rather use a longer lasting environmentally friendly bag. For many years now the team at the Marine Dynamics tourism hub has been minimising plastic use, especially plastic bags, even discouraging suppliers from individually wrapping clothing items in plastic. Other initiatives include no straws, no sugar/jam/butter sachets, no plastic bottles on the shark boat and the team uses recycled newspaper bags in the curio shops.

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DEEP dive into the Two Oceans Aquarium

June 25, 2018

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust Environmental Education Programme(DEEP) second and third year intake learners visited the Two Oceans Aquarium on Wednesday, 20 June, as part of their programme. The programme focuses on the marine ecosystem.

During the course of the year the children learn about protecting and conserving the marine environment, including marine animals and rocky shores ecosystem. The visit to the aquarium aimed at showing the learners some of the marine animals that are covered in their curriculum e.g. stingrays, crabs, different shark species, fish species, jellyfish and many other species.

These learners are on their three year journey of becoming ambassadors for the ocean. The trip was an eye opener for these young ambassadors as most of them haven’t been out of Gansbaai. Seeing the big city was an amazing thing for the kids. They learned about movement of smaller animals through microscopes, which made them see the world in a different way. They asked the aquarium staff lots of questions about the marine life. Watching the feeding of stingrays was a highlight for them.

They learned about social stuff as well, using escalators, fork and knife, having the privilege to sit in a restaurant and order food of their choice. This wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for South African National Lotteries who sponsored the outing and Wilfred Chivell for extra spoils and treats. Thank you to Marine Dynamics and  the International Marine Volunteers who assisted with the children.

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June 08, 2018

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) officially launched the Fishing Line Recovery and Recycling Program along the Gansbaai shoreline in 2010. This innovative project of strategically placed unique fishing line bins aims to reduce the severe environmental damage caused by discarded fishing line on our coastline. “Our marine animal rescue team has seen some of the worst injuries on seabirds, seals and sharks caused from discarded fishing line. We have to date collected probably over 5000kms of fishing line. The fishing line bin helps create public awareness about the negative impacts that fishing line debris has on marine life, water quality, and human welfare. We place bins at our local beaches and popular fishing spots encouraging anglers and beach walkers to dispose of their used fishing line. We hope to reduce the amount of fishing line entering the marine environment, as well as to increase the amount of fishing line being recycled. We also conduct regular beach clean-ups. We have strong partnerships with organisations that help the reach and management of this project,” says Trust CEO Wilfred Chivell.

The first twenty bins were placed in partnership with Overstrand Municipality in the Gansbaai area. Since then bins have been placed at various locations around the country including alongside Blue Flag beaches and is proving to be an icon for marine pollution. Since 2011, DPI Plastics has been providing material for these bins. This dedicated and critical sponsorship was arranged by John Kieser of Plastics ǀ SA.
“Monofilament fishing line is non-biodegradable and can last for hundred of years in the marine environment where it entangles wildlife, is mistakenly ingested by birds and animals, resulting in injury or death, and is also hazardous to boaters and swimmers,” says Anthea Paulsen of DPI Plastics. “DPI Plastics would like to enlarge our eco footprint and be seen as eco leaders in our industry. We look forward to the continued reach of the fishing line bin project. It can grow so much further, not only along the coastline but inland for rivers and dams where the same problems exist."

Kieser is also responsible for organising interested organisations in South Africa to take part in the International Coastal Clean Up Day that happens every September. Kieser provides all bags, gloves and data cards for this annual event as well as all clean ups that take place throughout the year. “It is important that we collate the data forming an accurate picture of marine pollution and its sources in South Africa, so we can assess and advise plastic manufacturers where required. Product design can be revised minimising waste issues. The fishing line bin has been well received along the coast and a roadshow is planned for 2019,” says Kieser.

The team got together in Gansbaai on World Oceans Day, 8th June. After enjoying a whale trip with Dyer Island Cruises that reminded all of the marine world that needs protection, some fishing line bins were built with the Trust’s environmental education group. A bin was strategically placed in Stanford’s Cove in the De Kelders in an area commonly used by fishermen.

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Laser Photogrammetry – a non-invasive tool to yield key biological information from Sharks

June 04, 2018

The latest Marine Dynamics evening started on a positive note with Dyer Island Conservation Trust Environment Educational Programme, better know as the DEEP Blue ambassadors, opening with a short presentation on what this programme means for their education and personal development. The youngest future DEEP ambassador, Munashe Mudenge, just 6 years old introduced the rest of the team with ease. The group thanked their sponsors and Pinkey Ngewu, the educator of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

The Great White House management and staff recently took to using their singing talent to start a choir. They have been practicing under the expertise of musician Anza Naude for the last three weeks. This talented team entertained everyone with Margaret Singama – Lady Africa’s: Mama Thembu’s Wedding.

This month’s guest speaker was Marine Dynamics Guiding Biologist Toby Rogers, presenting on his research concerning sharks and laser photogrammetry.

Toby Rogers studied at UK based, Bangor University, where he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology in 2016. Toby is the Academic lead of the skills-based Science Internship with the companies’ new venture, Marine Dynamics Academy.

Photogrammetry in simple terms is using still images to collect measurements of free-swimming animals. Non-invasive techniques are strived for in marine biology and the motivation behind Toby’s research was to pinpoint a technique that allows researchers to yield core biological metrics namely, size, sex and stage of sexual maturity, from sharks without having to touch the animals. These core biological metrics can then be used for management authorities when they are implementing conservation policy. Using lasers and cameras to capture measurement data from sharks provides an alternative to catching sharks.

The lasers point onto the flank of the shark, and because the distance between the two lasers is known (10cm) you can use image analysis software to scale your images and collect accurate measurements. However, it doesn’t appear to be as simple as it first might seem. It is not possible to use the software to measure from the tip of the snout to the tip of the caudal, due to the swimming behaviour of the shark. Therefore, you need to find a measurement proxy to try and predict the total length of the shark.

Typically, researchers will use a fixed point on the animal, usually the dorsal fin area. 101 catsharks (Shark Picture) that were caught as a result of by catch were used to gather detailed measurements of every body part (shark sketch), as well as identifying the sex and stage of reproductive maturity for each animal. This would then be useful for building models to predict these metrics from free swimming sharks.

To gather information about Total Length (TL), linear equations were calculated between three dorsal fin measurements and TL from the dead shark database. The strongest predictor of TL turned out to be the dorsal fin base length. Dorsal fin measurements can then be collected by using your cameras. Enter your measurement into the linear equation and your predicted TL will be produced. Since the researchers had live sharks in the tanks they were able to validate their predictions by comparing to the known total length of each shark. Results were shown to be very accurate and precise, which allowed the researchers confidence to collect finer scale measurements from the sharks in the tanks.

Laser photogrammetry has previously been used to measure whale sharks, white sharks and even Manta Rays. Therefore, they have provided further support that the technique is accurate to gather TL information. But the researchers also wanted to gain information about the sex and stage of reproductive. With sharks generally, you can determine males from females by looking for claspers where presence is male, and absence is female. However, with some juvenile male shark species, or even some of the more cryptic species it may not be as obvious. Identifying the level of reproductive maturity is a very difficult process. The team looked at using the analogy that different body parts grow at different rates during your life and applied this to the catsharks. By calculating ratios between different body parts, you can start to detect slight changes between males and females as well as mature and immature sharks.

A statistical test called Random Forest Classification Modelling, allows you to pinpoint the most important ratios that discriminate between male and females, and mature and immature individuals. To test for the accuracy of this, the measurements highlighted by the Random Forest Models were collected from the live animals in the tanks using the lasers and the camera. Ratios were calculated and applied to the model to predict the maturity level of the male sharks in the tanks. Since the team knew the maturity stage of each male in the tank, they were able to validate the model predictions. The models were able to correctly classify 79% of the immature males, and 100% of the mature males. Very good results indeed!

Next steps involve researchers to examine and determine whether the growth ratio technique will also work for other species of shark around the world and investigating the use of different camera arrays.

Thank you to all our guests supporting our Marine Evenings. We look forward to welcoming you to our next event.

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May 01, 2018

Pavs Pillay is the WWF-SA Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) manager and is involved in consumer awareness, education and communication on sustainable seafood and marine conservation. Originally hailing from Gauteng, it seems strange that marine science would be Pavitray (Pavs) Pillay’s calling, but after getting her feet wet in the sea on holiday, she subsequently submersed herself in all things ocean. Pavs has a BSC (Wits) Zoology and Archaeology, Honours & MSC (UCT): Marine Biology. She has worked in Namibia, Angola and SA on a UNDP/GEF funded marine programme and at the Marine Research Institute (UCT) as the communication and scientific officer. Pavs won the SANCOR Science Communicator of the Year award in 2010 and is noted by Mail and Guardian as one of the Young South Africans you must take to lunch.

Pavs started her talk with how she was inspired by her mother, a motivational speaker, and how her dream to become a marine biologist becoming a reality, leading to her role with WWF. She introduced the connection between blue and green and had everyone inhale and exhale three times with the reminder that most of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean (phytoplankton, chlorophyll etc). She introduced weird and wonderful marine species and then moved onto the stark reality that our oceans are massively over fished. Pavs explained the different types of fisheries and explained the damage they do in terms of bycatch. She mentioned that the hake longline industry is the most destructive in SA and that sharks are the biggest bycatch species. Following this she talked of fish stock collapses, how species such as cod in Newfoundland were so prolific that people used to 'walk on the back of' until the stock was decimated (recent survey in 2015 found 2 small cod). Something poignant she said was 'but here in SA we still have fish left' so we can act now before it’s too late. She then introduced SASSI, founded by a female marine biologist who identified the depletion of fish species and worked with traffic light system to encourage consumer behaviour. The consumer has power if enough speak up. Pavs elaborated on the example of SPAR stores that during the Easter holidays put prawns on promotion but due to consumer pressure had to remove them. Working with fisheries is critical and the Albatross was cited as an example with longliners using bird scare devices avoiding unnecessary seabird deaths. Kingklip has also moved from orange to green due to more sustainable fishing practices. Pavs ended on a positive quote from Dali Lama "if you think a small thing can't make a difference try spending the night with a mosquito". Interactive discussions followed, and shark biologist Alison Towner raised the issue of demersal longliners mine sweeping the coast decimating the small shark stocks and the octopus fisheries removing 30 tonnes of octopus from False Bay for 19 years in a row – a species that small shark species rely on. Pavs agreed that we need to act now for our sharks and that policy makers need to take swift decisions on these matters.

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Press Release: Volkswagen supports local surfing, surfers and a cleaner ocean message at the City Surf Series in Port Elizabeth

April 04, 2018 Matt Gennrich

The Volkswagen Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Pro, presented by Billabong was hosted at Pollok Beach over the long weekend in Volkswagen’s home city of Port Elizabeth. The action kicked off on Saturday, 31 March, as South Africa’s top surfers took to the waves for their heats. The three day event ended with a thrilling final on Monday, 2 April with Kai Woolf taking both the women’s and junior women’s titles, David van Zyl from Glenashley taking home the men’s title and Dillon Hendricks from Muizenberg winning the junior men’s crown.

Headline sponor Volkswagen South Africa was out in full support to cheer on the surfers, and to also give spectators a little more to focus on inbetween the sets. The Volkswagen Display activities kept families busy, while also landing a salient educational message on the health of SA’s oceans and plastic waste recycling.

Guests rode and posed for pictures on the Volkswagen Bottle Wave - handcrafted from recycled plastic bottles and waste. Together with their long standing partners in ocean marine life protection, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT), Volkswagen South Africa created the bottle wave photo set to highlight the Ocean’s plastic waste crisis and to encourage spectators to think differently about plastic pollution and recycling practices. The partnership with DICT falls under the company’s Volkswagen for Good initiatives.

While parents explored the great specifications of the various Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles on display - such as the California Beach camper van, Caravelle and Transporter Crew Bus – younger spectators were given insightful lessons on how to make better use of plastic trash. For a small donation to the DICT, children could play, craft and take home plastic ocean creatures recycled out of the very plastic that threatens the ocean’s well-being.

To drive the message home, Volkswagen and DICT also joined spectators and participants in a group Clean-the-Beach initiative to help ensure the beach was cleared of any trash caused by the event. They also held an ocean awareness talk with the local children who participated in Surfing South Africa’s CSI surf classes on the final day of the event.

In addition to the Volkswagen for Good initiatives showcased at the event, the People’s Car supports the City Surf Series first and foremost to help drive local surfing and surfers forward. “Volkswagen are backing the City Surf Series for the second year in a row due to the opportunity the series presents to local Surfers; giving them the chance to score accredited World Surfing League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) points, the log that leads to a spot on the WSL’s Championship Tour,“ said Matt Genrich, General Manager of Group Communications at Volkswagen.

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