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Issue 163: May 2000, pg 2
   
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                                 Why study the sea, the coast and estuaries?
 
Marine, estuarine and coastal resources of South Africa represent an enormous national asset for growth and development. Conservative estimates place a direct value of R45 billion and indirect value of R134 billion on coastal goods and services within a gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately R600 billion. Tens of thousands of South Africans are employed in marine and coastal sectors while millions could and should benefit from the leisure and spiritual attributes generated by our seas. For the country and its people to benefit from these resources require both wise development and a good understanding of the resources and the underlying dynamic processes involved.
 
The VISION for this proposed programme is therefore to:
Provide information, advice and training in support of optimal and
sustainable use and development of our sea, coasts and estuaries.
Recognising the changing needs of the nation and considering the experiences of the successful Sea and the Coast (S&C) Programme, the DEA&T, the NRF and the MSET community, initiated early in 1999 the development of proposals to underpin a potential new five year national programme.
 
This proactive process commenced with regional fora being tasked to identify regional and national needs and also to generate innovative suggestions towards developing new scientific activities or ensuring the continuation of currently successful initiatives. This was followed by the articulation of stakeholder needs through interpretation of the 1998 NRF Act and the DEA&T key focus areas and associated objectives (as outlined in the department’s February 2000 business plan). These stakeholders were represented throughout the process at both regional and national levels.
 
Effectively this ensured that the needs for marine and coastal resource development were expressed from the "bottom-up" (regions) and the "top-down" (from stakeholders). A workshop was held (end March 2000) to review the regional inputs, evaluate the needs and to develop potential solutions that could be addressed in specific research thrusts.
 
The proposed programme encompasses applied and fundamental research and can be characterized by a problem-solving approach. Hence it is inherently multi-disciplinary in nature, promoting partnerships between marine and coastal researchers, economists and social scientists. It is acknowledged that, while individual thrusts may not address all needs simultaneously, the combination of the proposed thrusts ensures a cohesive approach and also a good balance between the goals of promoting resource development and human advancement. The latter will specifically focus on corrective action. Furthermore, it was seen that research would not only support opportunities for development but would also be able to help identify the constraints. The programme could also assist in redistributing scientific endeavour to the regions of South Africa which historically and traditionally have not received adequate coverage. It seeks to encourage the submission of projects that will either make conceptual and analytical advances at a high level or contribute to the management of local resources.
 
The programme also offers opportunities to retain and to forge new international links and hence to ensure that internationally recognized standards and perspectives are maintained and obligations honoured. This would enhance our leadership role in an African context, and specifically through our SADC responsibilities and contacts.
 
al needs identified
Foremost was the recognition of the need to develop the country’s resources, which were identified as both human and natural resources.
The development of human skills would include such issues as:
  • Skills development and capacity (training and education)
  • Protection of community rights
  • Equitable development
  • Job creation
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Economic growth
The scope for conventional use and development of natural living resources was recognized to be limited. However, opportunities to develop them in more innovative ways have been explored and seen to include non-consumptive use, mariculture, tourism and value-added technology.
CARING
Caring for the natural resources and their environment was also identified as a logical prerequisite for ensuring sustainability of development. Included would be:
  • Conserving biodiversity
  • Protecting the environment in order to improve quality of life
Wise resource use and management would include such key issues as:
  • Decision support and associated tools
  • Enhancing food production
  • Reversing overexploitation
  • Research into policy and its implementation
  • Provision of good information
UNDERSTANDING
Fundamental to development, care and use is sound understanding in terms of natural science, the social issues and economics. The foci of this understanding include:
  • Processes that influence the abundance and health of resources
  • Biological, physical and chemical parameters that drive these processes
  • Social needs and expectations
  • The economics of use
  • Indigenous knowledge
Potential activities identified
In response to the needs outlined above, a suite of potential scientific and technological areas of activity is proposed.
In terms of Human Development:
In terms of Caring:
  • Promoting national awareness and the ethic of voluntary compliance
  • Developing environmental and water quality indices
  • Establishing transparent decision support systems
  • Understanding and alleviating the effects of pollution
  • Realising the benefits of protecting valuable areas and other conservation measures
In terms of Using and Managing:
  • Implementing the concept of sustainability
  • Improving monitoring and data management
  • Reporting on the state of the environment
  • Refining management systems
  • Developing simple, but effective, models and management procedures
  • Understanding and improving compliance
In terms of Understanding:
These potential areas of endeavour are amalgamated into seven interacting potential thrusts:
  • Coastal Processes -Understanding the Coast
  • Biodiversity - Richness of Life
  • Ocean Dynamics - Knowing the Ocean
  • Mariculture - Farming the Sea
  • Innovative Technologies -Inventing the Future
  • Resources for the Future - Risk and Reward
  • Tourism and Development -Shaping the Future
In drafting this programme it was recognized that it is important to provide support for developing specialized skills and to provide for needs that are generic in nature-
  • Statistical and numerate skills
  • Communication and awareness
  • Education
  • Assessment and development of policy
  • Student integration
  • Scientific and management liaison
A more detailed version of this document has been submitted to both the NRF and DEA&T. It is hoped that the proposed framework will contribute to the strategic planning process of the NRF which is currently being undertaken at present.