MARINE EVENING: THE SOCIAL NETWORK OF SPERM WHALES

August 24, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

In what was one of the best attended marine evenings, with local and international guests, speaker and marine biologist Miranda van der Linde, blew everyone away with her talk on the Social Network of Sperm Whales. Miranda has been studying sperm whales in the Azores archipelago for 9 years and is a guest guide with Dyer Island Cruises for the upcoming southern right whale season.

Research on these mysterious whales has revealed that they are among the most social animals on the planet and exhibit culture, very much like people. This culture, or traditions, is passed on through social learning from one generation to the next, and it varies across the globe. The Azores are a meeting ground and Miranda has identified 13 groups, some that do not interact much and others who are very social and have preferences for other families. Similar to people, some have long term friendships and some are more ‘extroverted’ than others. Sperm whale males are around 18m in length weighing an estimated 57tons and females about 12m and 20 tons. The calves are born at 4m and weigh 1 ton needing some assistance at birth to be helped to the surface to breathe, which is why they have long term bonds as the females assist with babysitting and breastfeeding other calves not just their own. The adult males do not remain with the large groups of females and babies and mostly connect with the females for mating purposes. Sperm whales have only one blow hole on the left hand side of the head so their blow is slanted, very different to our southern right double V blow. Sperm whale diet consists of giant squid and octopus. Their deep diving skills are renowned and they can even remain underwater for up to two hours slowing their heart beat to one beat a minute. Guests heard a recording of their clicking sounds when hunting and when socialising.
Miranda heads to New Zealand in November where she will continue her career with wildlife.

Find Miranda's scientific publication here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mms.12617

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GANSBAAI'S PENGUIN CAMPAIGN

August 23, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

It’s not all black and white for penguins - in fact, some rather colourful penguins have made their home in Gansbaai in the Western Cape of South Africa.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust is proud to be part of Gansbaai’s Penguin Campaign, whose objective it is to create an interest in Gansbaai's attractions by encouraging visitors to explore more and stay longer. Eight colourful giant penguins decorated by artists will be placed at sponsored locations throughout Gansbaai.

The campaign officially launched on Friday, the 23rd of August 2019 at the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, where eight colourful penguins gathered to have their photos taken before heading off to their respective ‘homes’.

The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, a project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, has become a key place to visit in Gansbaai and was the inspiration for the campaign. The African Penguin is an endemic species to South Africa and Namibia – with an estimated 15000 breeding pairs left in South Africa, the species has been on the endangered list since 2010. Historical factors of guano scraping for agricultural fertilizer destroyed their breeding habitat leading to predation during the crucial fledgeling stage. Coupled with an estimated 13million plus eggs that were harvested and considered a delicacy, this caused the initial crash in numbers. Now they face issues of predation by gulls, seal and sharks; oiling; marine pollution; and a lack of fish with overfishing in their crucial hunting grounds. Dyer Island off the coast of Gansbaai is home to a colony of African penguins and the APSS hopes to rebuild this population.

Glenda Kitley, manager of Gansbaai Tourism, had this to say, “The objective is simple: Follow the penguins, discover the places, taste the food, and experience the moments, that the greater Gansbaai area has to offer. Gansbaai area is known as the Natural Adventure Destination and is renowned for the Marine Big Five, blissful beaches, fynbos, fabulous food and fine wine, and much more. Plot your penguin route, place yourself in the penguin picture and present the penguin proof. The penguins are sure to delight young and old and hopefully the real ones will enthral.”

The penguins have been sponsored by various businesses and can be found at these respective locations: The African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, Gansbaai Tourism, Marine Dynamics, Lomond Wine Estate, Blue Goose Restaurant, Xplorio, Saxon Lodge and Pearly Beach. Each penguin has been decorated by an artist/s with a focus on all that Gansbaai has to offer. All penguin stories can be found on Xplorio Gansbaai. Quarterly incentive prizes are available for those who visit all eight penguins and share them to the social media space of Gansbaai Tourism’s Instagram with the hashtag #gansbaaipenguins #capewhalecoast Tag @gansbaai-tourism and the venue of the penguin.
https://xplorio.com/gansbaai/gansbaai-penguin-campaign/

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MARINE POLLUTION ROADSHOW

August 20, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust joined John Kieser from Plastics ǀ SA on his trip to hand out materials required for the International Coastal Clean Up. International Coastal Clean Up Day is on the 21st September and various organisations around the world participate. This is in fact John’s 25th clean up that he has been involved in and he collects all the stats from this day. These stats form part of a bigger picture for South Africa and in turn the world as they contribute to the report produced by Ocean Conservancy. The stats are also important for identifying problems and for encouraging manufacturers to change designs if any item keeps cropping up. This in turn helps drive solutions, for example that there is a now a recycling initiative for plastic bottle caps.

Conservation partners in Agulhas, Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay, and Port Elizabeth were visited and provided the opportunity for the DICT to promote the new poster for the fishing line bin. The new poster has a caricature penguin on crutches with a catchy poem designed to catch the attention of all ages. The fishing line bins along the South African coastline are mapped and this live map will soon be available on the DICT website - one will be able to see at a glance where the bins are located as well as the managing authority for the various areas. The DICT also shared more about Project S.T.O.R.M – Stop Our Rubbish Movement – this project of a catch net addresses waste that filters into the ocean via the storm water drains.

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GLOBAL SPATIAL RISK ASSESSMENT OF SHARKS UNDER THE FOOTPRINT OF FISHERIES

July 25, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s shark biologists Alison Towner and Oliver Jewell are co-authors on a ground-breaking new study published in the science journal Nature. The work confirms that sharks have very limited spatial refuge from industrial longline fisheries in open oceans, worldwide.

This is one of the most substantial collaborative datasets between shark scientists to date, with 150 authors from 26 countries around the world combining their satellite tagging data. Led by David Sims from the Marine Biological Association in the UK, the work identified crucial areas in the high seas across the globe known as ‘pelagic hotspots’ which both sharks and longline fisheries highly utilise. Pelagic longline vessels can deploy up to 100km of line with as many as 1,200 baited hooks daily.

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NEWSPAPERS HAVE A SECOND LIFE – FUN WITH SILWERJARE ON MANDELA DAY 2019

July 18, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust believes that every day is Mandela Day, but still, the team thought it a good idea to share some tea and cake with some special guests.  

The Trust’s key project, the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, started making bags of newspaper a few years ago, but they needed an extra pair of hands. That was when Mariaan Burger, a local Gansbaai resident, stepped in offering her time and energy to the project. Mariaan was encouraged by Trust founder, Wilfred Chivell, to start a ‘production line’ so that the Great White House and any other interested businesses could buy and use these newspaper bags. Now every Tuesday a  group of dedicated residents from the Silwerjare service centre for older persons in Blompark, meet to enjoy some time together whilst producing bags of varying sizes. These bags are then purchased for use at the Great White House curio shop and have proved to be quite a hit with guests from all over the world. The extra income from the bags is used for the group outings. 

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CRESTAQUARIUM GIVES BACK

July 17, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Cresta Shopping Centre has brought the Dyer Island Conservation Trust on board to help drive education about marine conservation.

Our Trust Manager and educator, Pinky Ngewu, attended the opening event and had the opportunity to tell guests about the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, “We work in the protection of all marine species. Our founder’s main passion was taking care of the Dyer Island penguins in Gansbaai in the Western Cape. Our African penguins are facing extinction and are only left with seven years to survive in the wild. We are working on protecting this species so that future generations can enjoy them too.”

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SHARK AWARENESS DAY

July 14, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Gansbaai is known world-wide as the White Shark capital of the world. But did you know that this coastline has a large diversity of other sharks as well. Around the world we know of over 500 different shark species, 117 of which can be found around the Southern African coast. Our sharks face many threats, mostly from fishing pressures, especially longliners where many are caught as bycatch.


We have a large number of species belonging to the Requiem and catshark families. Our interns from Marine Dynamics Academy joined hands with the children from Dyer Island Conservation Trust’s Environmental Education Programme (DEEP) in catching and measuring various catshark species from our local shores. The animals were tagged with an ORI (Oceanographic Research Institute) tag, after which they were safely released back into the ocean. These activities are a simple but vitally important method to get an impression of how many individuals of each species are swimming around, where these sharks move to, and how fast they grow over time. While this information will go into our research database, it gave the children from DEEP an unprecedented opportunity to interact with local wildlife they would normal never see, and so influence our younger generation to take more care about the wonderful and diverse marine life around our shores.

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HOTSPOTS2C IS TRAVELLING WITH PURPOSE

July 08, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Hotspots2C has for many years been a valuable tourism partner of Marine Dynamics. It is through this association that Hotspots2C began supporting the penguin nest project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. This nest project has been operation since the inception of the Trust in 2006. The nests or penguin homes are addressing the critical chick stage by providing protection from predators and the elements. Penguins would normally burrow into their layers of built up guano, but this was historically removed and used as fertilizer. In fact, it was called white gold and was fought over in the early 1900s. Guano scraping stopped in the 80s but not before the substrate, usually metres high, was removed from all the penguin breeding colonies. Then we had millions of penguins. Our current 16000 breeding pairs left will never be able to recreate this natural breeding habitat.


The DICT is represented on the African Penguin Habitat Working Group and there is a currently a modified nest being rolled out that will address some heat issues evaluated over the years. Hotspots2C has bought a nest every month and is now a Platinum donor having sponsored 50 nests. 

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STORM WATER DRAIN NET PLACED IN GANSBAAI, MINIMISING MARINE POLLUTION

July 05, 2019 Dyer Island Conservation Trust

Inspired by a project in Australia, Wilfred Chivell of Marine Dynamics Tours and founder of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, realised the need for a net system over the storm water drain outlets in Gansbaai. The first identified site was Gansbaai Harbour, an area notorious for plastic pollution and a prime spot to test the efficacy of the net and attachment design. The first net design was sponsored by Marine Dynamics and project leaders Hennie Otto (Marine Dynamics) and Benjamin Kondokter of the Overstrand Municipality placed the net on World Oceans Day 8 June. It was tested during a rainstorm but tore due to a design flaw in the oyster net used. Wilfred and Hennie then approached Ian Wessels of Wildegans Fishery who kindly donated the sardine purse seine net and stitching work required and this was placed on Plastic Bag Free Day 3 July. The nets are designed to prevent pollutants and solid waste, carried by storm water from the local road network, from flowing into the marine environment.


Wilfred had this to say about the project, “We noted the pollution from the storm water drain in the Gansbaai harbour, whilst on a clean-up. The outlet leads straight to nearby rock pools and into the ocean. The kelp that traps some of the waste makes it difficult to clean and this too is ultimately washed out to sea. We have been doing cleans up for twenty years and 80% of the waste is plastic. Dyer Island Conservation Trust is the first port of call for marine animal rescues and strandings in the Gansbaai area and we have witnessed first-hand the impact on our marine wildlife. We hope that through this project we can minimise this impact by reducing the amount of waste entering the marine system. Unfortunately, most of the waste will probably not be suitable for recycling, but we will do this where possible. This is a worldwide problem and our dream is to roll this out in the Overstrand and in South Africa.”

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OCTOPUS FISHING CAUSING WHALE DEATHS SUSPENDED BY FISHERIES MINISTER

June 29, 2019

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust is relieved to hear that Minister Barbara Creecy announced she was temporarily suspending exploratory octopus fishing with immediate effect after several whales died getting tangled in nets. The Trust team together with other concerned organisations and individuals raised this issue with the government over the last couple of years to no avail and it is interesting that only a public outcry had the desired effect.

CEO of the Dyer Island Conservation trust, Wilfred Chivell, had this to say, “Well done to all those involved who have been pushing for this closure for the last few years and to all those who signed the petition. We commend Minister Creecy for taking a stand. Only a few were, in fact, benefitting from this industry whilst whales paid the price. South Africa is against whale hunting yet allowed these unnecessary deaths for too long. We will continue to fight for the protection of our environment and we do hope the same attention will be given to the matter of longlining vessels that are currently affecting our marine ecosystems. Marine eco-tourism is non-consumptive and more emphasis on this industry would benefit South Africa as a whole.”

Media Releases:
The South African - Fisheries Minister suspends octopus fishing after whale deaths
Environmental Affairs - Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries concerned over entanglement of whales in fishing gear