It all started with one, passionate woman: Dr Sylvia Earle and ended with the global mobilisation of an organisation aimed at protecting marine ecosystems around the world. Sylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, explorer, author and lecturer. A National Geographic explorer-in-residence since 1998, Earle was named Time Magazine’s first Hero of the Planet that same year. She is a fierce advocate for ocean conservation, working tirelessly to raise awareness and move people to act to protect our marine environment.
In 2009, Dr Earle founded Mission Blue, which aimed to create marine protected areas (Hope Spots) around the globe and, in 2014, South Africa was included in this movement when she visited our country to establish six International Hope Spots. Plettenberg Bay is one of those six, along with False Bay, the Cape Whale Coast, Knysna, Algoa Bay and Aliway Shoal. The Plett Hope Spot is aimed at linking the Robberg MPA (marine protected area) to the Tsitsikamma MPA, which is the oldest in Africa.
A Hope Spot is defined as “an area of an ocean that needs special protection because of its wildlife and significant underwater habitats. Hope Spots are about recognizing, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean.” We’re proud that Plettenberg Bay has been included in this list of iconic Hope Spots and, with our rich underwater world, beautiful beaches, Fynbos, wetlands, forest and birdlife, it certainly feels like an area worth protecting!
The underwater world of Plettenberg Bay is exceptionally vibrant. The Southern Cape coastline is where the Atlantic and Indian oceans mingle, creating a nutrient rich environment, ideal for invertebrate life. The reefs around Plett are covered in a fireworks display of colour: orange wall sponge, strawberry anemones, blue choirboy coral, a massive variety of nudibranchs and molluscs feeding an array of reef fish, which in turn feed sharks, dolphins, seals and marine birds – leading to a bay that is teeming with life, and we’d like to keep it that way! The nutrient rich water also suits baleen whales like Humpbacks and Southern Rights, which migrate to the bay every year to mate and breed. A whole wonderland of marine creatures for us to enjoy!
If you’d like to find out more about Hope Spots and protecting our oceans, watch Dr Earle’s TED Talk below.