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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March 29, 2018 Pinkey Ngewu

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s Environmental Education programme known as DEEP takes on a group of learners from Masakhane Primary school. In the first year they do a presentation to Marine Dynamics staff and in the second year, they present to their peers on a topic of importance. Last year marine pollution was covered and this year the topic was water conservation.

The key message around water was its scarcity and the fact that only about 3% of all earth’s water is fresh water. Most of this water is ice and only 1% of it accessible for human use. The students explained that we cannot live without water because 66% of our human body is water. People, companies, and governments have to practice water conservation by reducing water usage. The increase in population, increase in industries and agriculture and pollution contributes to water scarcity especially in times of lower rainfall.  The learners raised awareness about the water scarcity in Cape Town which is approaching Day Zero.

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March 22, 2018 Petra Neveceralova

Working with whales and protecting them was my dream since I was a little girl. I can´t say how much I am honoured to work with Dyer Island Conservation Trust as a PhD student.

I was born in the middle of Europe, in the landlocked country of Czech Republic. However, I am so lucky to have a great mom that has always supported me. In 2005 she took me on an incredible journey to Africa. For the first time I visited South Africa and the day when I celebrated my 17th birthday, I saw my first whale. It was a humpback whale, a mother with a little whale baby. I will never forget how amazed I was in the presence of the whale, and I still feel that whenever I am close to these magnificent animals.

I was very lucky to meet Mr. Wilfred Chivell in Gansbaai, a small town on the coast of Western Cape, South Africa. He was the owner and skipper of Whale Whisperer, a whale watching boat of his company Dyer Island Cruises. He invited me on his boat and for the first time I met southern right whales. Different from humpbacks in their behaviour, so friendly and relaxed in the water. I completely fell in love with these gentle giants. The moment I saw them I decided to study these whales and help protect them and conserve their environment.

Time went on and the Dyer Island Cruises company grew bigger and bigger and I volunteered for Wilfred several times. During that time I also managed to get my bachelor degree and then masters degree in general biology with the support of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, a non-profit founded by Wilfred. They provided me with data they collect during whale watching and I did some research on whale breaching and whale distribution in comparison with wind.

After I finished my masters, the question was what to do next. Nobody in the Central and Eastern Europe studied whales at that time and abroad universities were too expensive for me. But I was lucky again when I met Professor Pavel Hulva, Ph.D. from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. He is a leader of a group that studies wolf genetics and they use all data in conservation. When we met, he admitted that he always wanted to study whales. To use genetic data in conservation is an awesome modern research project with huge conservation impact – perfect for me! That was the very beginning of my PhD project that we named “Conservation genetics of southern right whale” and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and Dyer Island Cruises became the most important partners.

As the PhD project is built on genetic data, we need samples from southern right whales. After certain whale behaviour like breaching, lobtailing or mating, pieces of whale skin can be found floating on the surface. This skin is perfectly suitable for the DNA extraction. Also from the whale faeces, sometimes found around the boat during whale watching, some DNA can be extracted. This is called “non invasive” sampling as the whale does not even know that we “sample” her. In cooperation with Dyer Island Cruises crew we collect all these samples and this has become one of the most effective method of getting DNA without disturbing the animals at all. As you can see, it is in high contrast with Japanese whalers, who claim that they must kill the whale for the genetic sampling and research.

In the end, what do we do with the DNA? DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is an information molecule that is present in every cell of every organism and it can be called “a plan of a life” as every protein molecule in the body is synthetized according to the DNA plan. You can obtain a variety of information from the DNA such as where the animal comes from, if it is male or female, if it has any genetic disease and you can track its parents, sibling or its offspring.

There are several goals for my PhD project. First of all, we would like to describe the population genetics of the South African right whales. Based on the population structure, we can guess the number of whales in the area, follow the gene flow and see if the same whales return to the same bays every year. Then we study immune genes - In a healthy population, it is necessary to have a certain variability among immune genes to ensure that the animals can resist any new virus or pathogen, so it is our goal to check the variability among local population. All this data will be used in conservation as the right whales went through so called “bottleneck effect”. This means that due to intensive hunting in the past several centuries their numbers dropped dramatically and this always means the drop in genetic variability, which is threatening for the population. It is important for us to know the genetic structure of our whales so we can protect them more effectively.

Thanks to the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and Dyer Island Cruises, important research can be done on South African right whales. Their motto “Discover and Protect” shows their dedication to the conservation and knowledge I am lucky I to work with them to protect our beloved whales in the bay.

For more information about the PhD project please go to

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March 14, 2018 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Award winning authors, Professor George Branch and his wife Margo, enthralled over 100 guests at the launch of their revised edition of Living Shores.  Their first book was published in 1981 and has been a standard reference for marine scientists and enthusiasts, but as Margo explained, “since then three key things happened – computers, digital photography and satellites; and now we can even measure continental drift.” With all the newly revealed information and climate change impacts, the book has been reworked to incorporate the many dramatic changes that our oceans and coasts have undergone over the past few decades.

Emeritus Professor George Branch started his scientific career studying limpets leading to a ground breaking paper on how limpets tend to their own garden patch. From there his keenly developed eye then looked at the different interactions he witnessed on the rocky shores and beyond. He studied invasive mussels, watched how prawns played and investigated algae and our impacts of commercial harvesting.  This led to involvement with the development of a new fisheries policy and the development of Marine Protected Areas. He met Margo at University of Cape Town and together they became the authorities on the smaller marine world. Margo is an accomplished author and illustrator with many books behind her name on topics such as marine, fynbos and mushrooms. Her passion is to instil conservation ethics by showing the wonder of the natural world.

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March 08, 2018 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

The Two Oceans Aquarium team recently did a road show to establish drop off points along the coastline and brief everyone on what to do should they find a stranded turtle. Guests at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary learnt what to do with a turtle and what they can do from an environmental perspective every day to help turtles and all our marine life. Key messages included not using straws, balloons, plastic bags or water bottles, cutting any circular plastic loops that could entangle animals, and correct disposal of cigarette butts, classified as one of the worst pollutants.

The team included Talitha Noble (Conservation co-ordinator and head of turtle rehab), Hayley McLellan (Environmental Campaigner and brainchild of the ‘Rethink the Bag Campaign’), Inge Adams (WWF intern at the Aquarium and Turtle Princess) and Zoku the fluffy toy (turtle mascot and cuddle buddy).

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February 28, 2018 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Wilfred Chivell and Susan Visagie from Marine Dynamics recently travelled to the remote and rugged islands off the South of New Zealand.  Driven by Wilfred’s quest to see all the penguin species of the world, he hoped to encounter the Snares, Erect Crested, Royal and Fiordland. The trip with Heritage Expeditions had some of the best weather experienced meaning they could access all islands even though they never saw the sun. Wilfred was able to tick off the four penguins on his bucket list and in fact saw ten species of penguin and 13 albatross, in all 109 bird species.

At the February marine evening at the Great White House with over 100 guests, Susan shared the outline of the journey and the experience of what it felt like being on such a trip while Wilfred shared more on the birds encountered. The islands visited included Snares, Auckland, Macquarie, Campbell, Antipodes, Bounty and Chatham. Seeing such remote and still pristine areas reminded all of the need to protect these unique habitats.

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World Wetlands Day 2018

February 02, 2018 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s Environmental Education Programme (DEEP) met for their first lesson of the year on wetlands. World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February.

The theme for 2018 is "Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future" and the students were encouraged to reduce their school’s water bill by 10% every month to avoid water restrictions in their respective areas.

Why should we care about Wetlands?

A wetland is an area of land saturated with water either permanently or seasonally such as marshes, swamps, floodplains. Sadly, lots of wetlands have been degraded to accommodate the growing numbers of human population in the urban areas.

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