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specialists discover {that a} data-driven monitoring system is paying off

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9 years in the past South Africa put in place an revolutionary data administration system designed to observe and defend its seas. The nation is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian oceans on its southern, japanese and western borders.

The oceans are an necessary supply of earnings and employment. The ocean financial system contributed about R110 billion (round US$5.7 billion) to South Africa’s GDP in 2010. A 2019 authorities report projected that, by 2033, this is able to rise to R177 billion (US$9.2 billion), in addition to creating simply over a million jobs. The primary sectors in ocean industries are maritime transport, fisheries and aquaculture, mineral useful resource exploitation and tourism. The potential for financial development can also be mirrored within the nation’s Operation Phakisa Oceans Economic system plan.

However, whereas the sheer extent of its maritime area presents many alternatives, it additionally comes with governance challenges. It’s exhausting to observe and plan for ocean-related financial improvement and conservation.

That’s the place the Nationwide Oceans and Coastal Data Administration System (OCIMS) is available in. It was conceptualised inside the nation’s Division of Forestry, Fisheries and the Setting in 2012 and formally launched in 2015 in partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Analysis (CSIR).

Whereas the system is tailor-made to South Africa’s nationwide priorities, it was impressed by different mature ocean data programs world wide, equivalent to these in Australia and the US.

The system brings ocean observations made by varied nationwide businesses into one platform. The foremost customers are additionally companions who contribute to the system by sharing information and experience.

For instance, information seize apps on the system are used to share measurements made on aquaculture farms and inform customers on the potential danger of purple tides (a standard identify used for dangerous algal bloom). Boat-based whale watching operators contribute their marine species sightings information in the direction of biodiversity assessments. All this information may be analysed by scientists and their findings used to advise on coverage choices or compliance and enforcement actions.

In a latest paper we checked out how the system emerged and why it’s been necessary for the safety of the nation’s oceans. We discovered that it was offering worth for cash: it helped mitigate environmental or safety dangers, leading to vital price financial savings for the private and non-private sectors. It additionally promoted dialogue throughout authorities departments, non-profit organisations and the non-public sector. This facilitates a coordinated method to ocean governance.

The method taken to determine the system may gain advantage different international locations seeking to construct their very own ocean and coastal system information platforms.


Because the COVID pandemic demonstrated, knowledgeable choices can not happen with out entry to information. Historic and operational information supplies situational consciousness, informs coverage and helps long-term planning and administration.

Learn extra:
How African international locations can harness the large potential of their oceans

To this finish, the Division of Forestry, Fisheries and the Setting, working with the South African Environmental Observations Community, created the Marine Data Administration System. It’s a vital part of the general OCIMS system. It preserves, discovers and disseminates long-term information. It’s internationally accredited and sure by finest worldwide requirements and practices.

The system additionally makes information extra accessible by offering user-specific information seize purposes, complemented by information visualisation platforms equivalent to webmaps and dashboards.

Supporting choices

One other of the system’s goals is to offer instruments for supporting choices. Such instruments can be utilized for coordination and response (for instance, monitoring avian influenza). They will also be utilized in compliance and enforcement initiatives, equivalent to monitoring vessels.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture device, as an example, helps each the private and non-private sectors by offering warnings on probably dangerous algal blooms, a phenomenon that may threaten aquaculture farms or have an effect on fish and lobster populations. It detects algal blooms via satellite tv for pc observations; this satellite tv for pc information is complemented by data from these within the area, combining to create an lively, interactive decision-making device.

Display seize from the OCIMS web site. The purple space within the satellite tv for pc imagery reveals a excessive focus of algae in St Helena Bay on the 17 February 2022 which had been related to a purple tide and led to a serious lobster walkout.

Then there’s the Built-in Vessel Monitoring device. It screens vessels’ actions and is used day by day by the establishments mandated to implement safety at sea, equivalent to intelligence companies and the navy, to detect or intercept unlawful actions at sea. Researchers say the device has labored to forestall unlawful fishing and marine air pollution. It’s additionally been instrumental within the interception of drug-loaded vessels.


All of those successes have been made attainable by safe, sustained funding by the South African authorities. That has instilled a way of safety in collaborators and companions; they supply invaluable co-funding, experience and information, saving cash and constructing resilience into the system.

Among the system’s instruments have been shared with different international locations within the southern African and Indian Ocean areas.

Because the venture’s visibility will increase, new alternatives for collaborations are rising. Authorities departments, non-profit organisations and the non-public sector are coming ahead with provides to share information. The system can also be being proposed to be used by educational scientists of their proposals.

One of many primary classes rising from our analysis, which can be of curiosity to different international locations eager to launch comparable initiatives, is that it’s essential to contain a system’s main customers in improvement from the beginning. Formalised stakeholder interactions be sure that the system instantly responds to main consumer wants. That makes it instantly related and helpful.


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