WIOMSA Conference

“Science communication starts with a smile,” a quote taken from an exciting and thought provoking presentation by Dr Judy Mann at the WIOMSA 11th Scientific Symposium, held at the University of Mauritius. Dr Mann highlighted that communicating science is so important to create an informed society, but also a society that is motivated, inspired and empowered to act. Dr Mann said that, “knowledge does not necessarily change behaviour,” and it is key for us as science communicators to be conscious of people’s cultural beliefs and contexts, and provide the solutions they need to change their behaviour.

SST’s Dr Tony Ribbink, Amarein Fourie and Stephanie Martin attended the conference and absorbed these and other inspirational messages from the symposium, to enhance SST’s strategies to achieving Zero Plastics to the Seas of Africa.

The symposium, held in sunny Mauritius, from the 1st to the 6th of July 2019 was attended by delegates from around the world with a specific interest in scientific research and ocean conservation in the Western Indian Ocean. Presentations and posters were offered by scientists researching a variety of topics from ocean acidification, fisheries and the economic value of ecosystem services to microplastic pollution.

Dr Tony Ribbink chaired two parallel sessions focused on developing a stakeholder strategy to achieve Zero Plastics to the Seas of the Western Indian Ocean, and to showcase cutting edge research on microplastics being conducted throughout the Western Indian Ocean region. These sessions saw presentations from Prof Linda Godfrey (CSIR), Peter Manyara (IUCN), Prof Henk Bouwman (North-West University, South Africa), and our very own Amarein Fourie. Amarein explained that microplastics are in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. She highlighted that the microplastic research conducted by SST is the first of its kind in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, and it indicates a strong need for further research in the contamination of regularly consumed seafood species by microplastics. This research is vital to influence policy and change the way consumers behave when managing their household waste.

During the symposium, the SST team also met with the group of Mauritian scientists, led by Dr Sushma Mattan-Moorgawa who will be undertaking the WIOMSA Marine Litter Monitoring Project (coordinated by SST) in Mauritius, the first of its kind on the island. Miss Linisha Seeruttun, part of the monitoring team, presented her pioneering research on the distribution of macro, meso and microplastics in Mauritian mangrove habitats. Shockingly, plastic pollution was found in all of the mangrove habitats within her study.

Stephanie Martin presented her poster on the African Waste Academy (AWA) alongside other capacity building programmes being developed to enhance ocean conservation within the Western Indian Ocean. There was much interest from delegates to join the AWA network, and attend and present in its future webinars.

Attending the symposium offered a wonderful opportunity to learn, network and experience the splendour of Mauritius. The SST team who attended would like to give sincere thanks to all the amazing delegates of the symposium, and especially to WIOMSA for providing partial funding to Amarein Fourie to attend and present her work. We would also like to congratulate Dr Julius Francis and his team from WIOMSA for organising a spectacular symposium. We all certainly left with a smile and feeling inspired!

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