Challenges and Solutions to develop capacity for Deep-sea Research and Management in South Africa

By One Ocean Hub author Kerry Sink (et al)

“The deep sea in South Africa remains poorly studied with insufficient information to underpin the sound
environmental management needed to support an expanding ocean economy. Many other countries face similar challenges in developing sustainable ocean economies and there are new global efforts calling for more inclusive and equitable deep-sea science and management. There are frequent requests to share developing country priorities in this context and plans to support such efforts should draw from an understanding of the challenges and opportunities to develop this field. This report examines the South African experience in terms of the key obstacles that limit exposure to and participation in deep-sea research and management, possible pathways to increase entry into the field and proposed actions to improve deepsea research and management capacity.

In line with global definitions, the deep sea is defined as the ocean depths beyond 200m. South Africa is
a maritime nation with territory in three oceans and the deep sea constitutes more than 80% of mainland ocean territory. Despite this, knowledge to support environmental management and spatial planning in the deep sea is inadequate. The current in-country situation reflects very limited local capacity to engage in or apply deepsea research, with efforts to date focused on fisheries and oceanographic research. Most deep-sea sampling has been achieved by international parties, frequently with limited local collaboration. In the last two decades, research effort in the deep sea has declined due to funding limitations, attrition of taxonomic research and expertise, and changing governance arrangements and mandates in fisheries and ocean research and management. Some progress has been made through competitive research calls and the application of towed cameras, deep water drop-cameras and a Remotely Operated Vehicle that has now effectively sampled the seabed within its 300m depth capability. Two tow cameras, rated to 700m, are advancing ecosystem classification and mapping and the understanding of the impacts of key pressures in this depth range. These platforms are collecting valuable imagery, but further investment is needed to extend the sampling depth range, efficiently process and analyse data through the application of modern methods and
technology, and integrate data for maximum benefit….”