5 Trends towards thriving oceans

How are global ocean sustainability initiatives paving the way for a healthier marine environment? We dive in and find out.

The world’s oceans are a vital component of our planet’s ecosystem, supporting diverse marine life and providing essential resources for our wellbeing. But issues like pollution, overfishing and climate change are putting that wellbeing at risk.

In recent years, global efforts have been made to address the threats posed to our oceans and promote ocean sustainability. We take a look at five of the key trends and initiatives driving global ocean sustainability – plus what we’re doing at the V&A Waterfront within these areas to safeguard our marine environment for future generations.

Ocean Sustainability

1. Sustainable fisheries management

Overfishing has long been a concern for the health of our oceans and the communities that depend on them.

In response, many countries and international organisations have implemented sustainable fisheries management practices. These include implementing fishing quotas, promoting selective fishing techniques and establishing marine-protected areas to preserve critical habitats and breeding grounds.

Deeply entrenched in the V&A’s food philosophy is the need for everyone to have a seat at the table, and to always act in a way that is just, equitable and sustainable.

Our sustainable seafood initiative serves as a platform to stimulate a deeper conversation around the provenance of what we put on our plates, the communities and livelihoods the seafood sector supports, and the impact our fishing and consumption habits have on our oceans.

2. Reduction of marine pollution

Marine pollution, especially from plastic waste, poses a significant threat to the health of our oceans.

Thankfully, awareness of this issue is growing. Initiatives like Plastic-Free July and other plastic waste reduction campaigns, bans on single-use plastics and improved waste management systems have gained traction worldwide. Additionally, innovative solutions like biodegradable packaging and ocean clean-up technologies are being developed to combat pollution at its source.

The V&A Waterfront is a signatory to the SA Plastics Pact (SAPP) and as of last year, we’ve revised our tenant lease agreement with the purpose of eliminating single-use plastics at our precinct by 2025.

In this, we’re aligned with global best practice: In 2019 European Union lawmakers overwhelmingly voted (571 to 53) in favour of a complete ban on 10 single-use plastics including straws, cutlery and coffee stirrers by 2021.

Our four Plastics Pact targets for 2025 are:

  • Taking action on unnecessary and problematic packaging and plastic products through design, innovation or alternative delivery
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled (input recycling rate)
  • 30% average post-consumer recycled content across all plastic packaging

We’ve also appointed a compliance officer whose focus is educating tenants on waste separation at source. By doing this, we’re equipping our tenants to be in line with best practice globally: By 2025 all EU states will be obliged to recycle 90% of plastic bottles.

Marine Pollution

3. Conservation of marine wildlife and ecosystems

Safeguarding marine species, biodiversity hotspots and vulnerable marine ecosystems – such as coral reefs – is a pressing concern for governments, conservation organisations and communities worldwide. Essential to effective marine wildlife conservation is education.

The V&A works closely with the Two Oceans Aquarium (TOA) and its Foundation (TOAF), whose vision is to connect all people to the ocean, through conservation, awareness, research and education.

The Foundation offers quality, curriculum-aligned marine education programmes and adult ocean sustainability programmes. Its conservation work includes contributing to the conservation of five of the seven marine sea turtle species, collaborating on animal welfare programmes and conducting collaborative research projects with major tertiary institutions.

Through the Foundation’s Marine Wildlife Management Programme, a team of wildlife monitors and specialists manage marine wildlife at the Waterfront and Port of Cape Town, and regularly advise on marine wildlife matters across greater Cape Town.

The programme uses data-driven solutions to prevent harmful interactions with humans (e.g. providing resting spaces for seals to prevent them hopping on boats) and allows the team to help injured, distressed or entangled animals – sadly, these creatures are often the victims of human industrial activities or pollution.

At the V&A, we’re fortunate to share our neighbourhood with a number of marine animals – proof that nature and humans can coexist peacefully. In collaboration with the TOA and TOAF, we created a Marine Wildlife Walk, made up of eight look-out points where human visitors to our neighbourhood get the chance to see our wild neighbours going about their daily business.

4. Blue economy and sustainable tourism

The blue economy concept emphasises the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and job creation, while preserving the marine environment.

Similarly, sustainable tourism is being recognised as a means to support local communities while protecting fragile coastal ecosystems.

Strategies such as ecotourism, marine-protected areas for sustainable diving and snorkelling, and responsible cruise ship practices are being implemented to balance economic development with conservation goals.

Blue economy innovation is one of the V&A’s ocean economy focus areas. We’re committed to supporting and growing the work of partners and initiatives like:

  • Ocean Hub Africa (OHA), who are on a mission to accelerate ocean-minded African start-ups
  • The Plastics Innovation and Circularity Challenge, in partnership with OHA and the UK government’s UK-South Africa Tech Hub, which challenges innovators and entrepreneurs to seek and test solutions to problem plastics
  • The Two Oceans Aquarium, an award-winning attraction with more than 500,000 visitors a year
  • BlueCape, an initiative of ocean-focused businesses in the Western Cape

5. Climate change mitigation and adaptation

Climate change has significant implications for our oceans, including rising sea levels, ocean acidification and altered marine ecosystems.

To mitigate and adapt to these impacts, global initiatives include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources.

The V&A is committed to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include climate action. We’re home to 17 green-rated buildings and are proud to be one of the greenest precincts in Africa. Some of the ways we’ve achieved – and are set to maintain – this status include:

  • 40% decrease in overall use of energy
  • 5% of total energy generated from solar
  • Windows and skylights providing 95% of our daytime lighting
  • 47% reduction in carbon emissions by end of 2021
  • 40% of all tenants signing a green lease by end of 2021
  • 2,700 tons of waste diverted from landfills annually
  • Tenants paying zero fees for the collection and proper disposal of recyclable waste
  • Using 90% indigenous and drought-tolerant vegetation in our neighbourhood landscaping

In conclusion, while much is being done to raise awareness around marine conservation, ongoing collaboration between governments, organisations and individuals is essential if we want our oceans to be healthy for generations to come.

As a neighbourhood built around a working harbour and yacht basin – and with a founding philosophy of connecting the people of Cape Town with the sea – the V&A continues to keep the safeguarding of our oceans at the heart of much of what we do.