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.

The Great White House has for many years supported the SASSI programme and owner Susan Visagie together with Chef Chris Pead took the opportunity to show Pavs some of the seaweed creations being developed. Chris forages every Wednesday and there is now a seaweed menu available in the last half of the week. Pavs left with an array of Chef’s new bottled items.

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