Last weekend saw the towns of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay come together to celebrate World Oceans Day 2019. And there really is a lot to celebrate this year in Namibia – with the ATF team having demonstrated massive bycatch reductions in one of the deadliest fisheries for albatross in the world, previously estimated to be killing 30,000 birds each year!

To the left: ATF team leader Samantha Matjila and the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources at the World Ocean Day celebrations at Kuisebmund stadium in Walvis Bay, Namibia. 

The celebrations, hosted by the ATF and local authorities in Walvis Bay, were officially opened by a speech Bernard Esau (Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources) highlighting the importance of the oceans and the need for us all to work together towards protecting them. The Minister then proceeded to hand out an award to F/V Blohema for being the most seabird-friendly fishing vessel 2018/2019 and diligently deploying mitigation measures in compliance with existing regulations.

The group of women that the ATF works with to construct bird-scaring lines (that keep seabirds around vessels safe during fishing operations) also participated in the celebrations and were congratulated for their important contribution to marine conservation in Namibia. 

In the two weeks leading up to World Ocean Day 2019 the ATF team visited 10 schools in Walvis Bay and Swakopmund to talk about the importance of marine conservation and the work the Albatross Task Force is doing to reduce seabird bycatch in Namibia.

“It was a truly fulfilling experience, with so many of the children showing a genuine interest in the what they were learning. Having them ask us what subjects they should study to become marine biologists made it all worthwhile! “ – Titus Shaanika (ATF instructor)

The team’s efforts to galvanise the youth in the area resulted in over 200 school children joining members of the ATF, the Ministry of Marine Fisheries and Marine Resources, Walvis Bay Municipality and local fishing companies on Independence Beach for a big beach clean-up on the morning of the 7th of June. This army of oceans warriors covered over 1500 meters of coastline and collected over 40 bags of marine litter in just a couple of hours!

As part of the World Oceans Day celebrations, the ATF team also organised a football tournament. The Ocean Cup saw teams from various marine-themed institutions participate, including three different fishing companies, the University of Namibia, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (in conjunction with the ATF) and the Namibia Maritime and Fisheries Institute (NAMFI).

 To stay true to the World Oceans Day 2019 theme “Gender and Oceans”, each team was required to have at least two women on the field during the match. Upon defeating a fishing company and NAMFI, the team made up of ATF and Ministry staff made it to the finals and ended up taking home the cup after defeating the University of Namibia 1-0.

To the right: Ocean Cup champions (including ATF instructors and Ministry staff) celebrating their victory.

You can learn  more about the ATF’s work and the World Ocean Day celebrations in Namibia by listening to this great interview with ATF Namibia team leader Samantha Matjila: https://bit.ly/2IFlQ8s

By: Titus Shaanika (ATF instructor - Namibia and Ocean Cup Champion 2019)

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