Goal 14: Life below water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Oceans are crucial for human health and well-being. They provide inspiration, education and identity while regulating climate and air quality. Unfortunately, the health of our interconnected oceans is under severe threat.

This threat also impacts the lives of those Africans who rely on fisheries for their food and livelihoods. Fisheries provide jobs to 12 million people on the continent.

UCT researchers – working at the tip of a country flanked by the energetic Agulhas and the nutrient-rich Benguela currents, and with a geographical advantage for research in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean – are increasingly taking a global leadership role in ocean observations to improve our understanding of the ocean environment surrounding South Africa.

Much of this research takes place in the Marine and Antarctic Research for Innovation and Sustainability (MARIS). This new interdisciplinary centre for marine and Antarctic science projects, is an aggregator of competence and expertise that considers academic and technological knowledge in relation to societal benefits, with the overarching aim of enhancing the production of knowledge and human capacity in marine and Antarctic research.

Model simulations tend to overestimate the magnitude of the Southern Ocean seasonal cycle. To address this, UCT researchers are contributing to SCALE (Southern oCean seAsonaL Experiment): a novel interdisciplinary project spanning seasonal to decadal time scales that’s using integrated ship and robotics experiments to better understand the Southern Ocean seasonal cycle.

Recognising the need for whole- system approaches to the management of human activities in the oceans, a UCT team is developing a method for implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries in the Benguela large marine ecosystem. This involves collaboration across disciplines including the natural sciences, humanities, social sciences and economics, and non-academic stakeholders.

UCT researchers at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, are studying the pernicious scourge of marine plastic. Their primary role is to provide indicators of environmental plastics to assess whether measures to reduce plastic pollution are effective. Knowing where marine plastic comes from, and how it disperses through the environment, is crucial to target mitigation measures.

SEAmester is a UCT-inspired programme in education that takes place aboard the state‐of‐the‐art research vessel, SA Agulhas II. It introduces postgraduate researchers from across South Africa to marine science as an applied and cross-disciplinary field. Aimed at building capacity within the marine sciences, SEAmester’s strength lies in combining theoretical classroom learning with ship-based and hands-on research.