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Our Oceans Our Heritage

It is easy to take the vastness of the ocean for granted. In fact, oceans were believed to be limitless. It is the advent of technology that we have come to appreciate the complexity of the oceans by exploring the depths. We now know that the depths of the ocean can go as deep as 10km. The ocean floor is as varied as the land in its topography with deep valleys, flat plains known as the abyssal plains, and volcanic vents. Most of the earth’s surface is ocean so it comes as no surprise that the ocean plays an integral part of the human story. Humans derive great benefit from the ocean and science reveals more on how important the ocean is to human well being. Oceans regulate atmospheric temperature, distribute heat through out the globe through ocean currents, provide an environment for marine fauna and flora to thrive.

South Africa boasts a coastline of over 3000km and ocean area larger than the land. South Africa is rich in marine biodiversity owing to the three ocean currents. One of those currents is the cold Benguela current in the Atlantic ocean on the west coast which is a highly productive fishing ground. One of the popular species of fish owing to this productivity is mullet also known as harder.

Harder is enjoyed in many ways including fresh, pickled, salted and dried. Bokkoms which is salted and dried mullet is a delicacy which forms an important heritage of the west coast cuisine. It is mostly caught and processed by small scale fishers. Processing mullet into different varieties of bokkoms from dried to pickled creates a higher value product for small scale fishers. The processing is particularly done by women. This is one of the ways of creating a sustainable income of fisher communities.

Given the many benefits that can be derived from the ocean , conflicting interests have emerged. Offshore oil and gas mining is one of the emerging industries in South Africa which poses a great threat to other industries such as fishing and tourism due to the inherent impact of oil spills on ecosystems and the continual use of fossil fuels.

While we celebrate our diverse heritage on this day let us remember our natural heritage provided by our vast oceans and ensure its continual protection.