Benguela youth network
South Africa
Report on the Virtual Classroom on board the Ocean Explorer by Zoleka Filander
There was a planned virtual classroom on-board the Ocean Explorer (OceanX) ship by Zoleka Filander in collaboration with National Geographic Explorer and BCC Studios.
The Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries (Communication Directorate, Research Directorate and Monitoring Directorate), and Benguela Current Convention (Youth Ambassador & Swartkops Project Secretariat) hosted Solomon Mahlangu High School on the virtual classroom on-board the Ocean Explorer in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha).
Explorer Classroom with Zoleka Filander
The host, Ms Zoleka Filander, is a benthic scientist in the Ocean and Coasts Branch and a PhD candidate who is currently taking part in an oceans exploration series called "OceanExplorers" produced by National Geographic Explorer and BBC studios; on board OceanX ship.

She is part of the four young people from different countries conducting marine science research work in the offshore ecology field and being a young female research cruise leader in expeditions off the coast of South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique.

All four participants of the team are allowed to conduct a virtual classroom targeting schools in their countries and other countries. Zoleka was leading her virtual class on the day of 19th March 2021 at 16h00 hour. She was focusing on her professional journey, research work, marine science careers and showed some of the equipment she has been using on-board the ship.

BCC Youth Ambassador Seymour Siwa
There were more than thirty students at Solomon Mahlangu High School in attendance, including their school principal and class teacher. The program started on time 14h00 hour, as the school teacher and principal did the welcoming and opening remarks. Thereafter, the DEFF marine scientist from the Research Directorate Mthuthuzeli Gulekana gave a presentation on both Marine Awareness and Marine Pollution. The students participated well on the presentation by engaging with the presenter. As a BCC Youth Ambassador I then added on the importance of having youth involvement in such platforms, emphasising on the fact that even though they are a inland based school they could still make it in marine science career as long as they are determined and focused on what they want to achieve.
At 16h00 hour, we then connected to the OceanX Virtual Classroom with Zoleka Filander and two other South African schools, namely Gansbaai Academia and STS Lawhill Maritime Center, and the rest of the learners following on YouTube around the world. Ms. Filander started by welcoming the learners, and she continued by sharing the information in the equipment she is using on-board the ship to do her science work. She explained to the learner and further involved the engineer who was working on the machine. She then moved inside her working space where they control the machine and explained the processes to the students. Whilst she was still in her station, she dwelled on her career and her research work in details. As she did outside the ship, she involved the members of the team who control the benthic equipment.

The students engaged very well with Zoleka and our program director, asking various questions on Marine Science as a career, showing interest in Marine studies, and partaking in Marine related discussions. The school teacher and principal shared their gratitude for the program and showed interest in participating in any environment or marine related events that BCC Youth Ambassadors and The Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries will host in the near future.

Our Passion
As Benguela Ocean Youth Ambassadors we are deeply concerned about the problems facing the marine environment including the sustainable usage of living and non-living marine resources and threats including marine plastic and other pollution; climate change, coastal erosion and overpopulation, illegal and unregulated fisheries; ocean governance and security, poverty, seabed mining, oil spill risks and other emerging challenges...
For example, South Africa is ranked as one of the most significant contributors to the problem of marine pollution, as seen in Table I. It ranks consistently as among the worst geographical concentrations of coastal marine litter of any Benguela region due to a combination of factors such as poor marine ecological literacy against waste and empathy. Every year between 90,000 and 250,000 tonnes of litter enter our coastline according to the UN Environment Programme. Over 80% is land based. Only 16% of plastic waste in South Africa gets recycled. It deters tourism, fisheries, shipping and ports, threatens water security and causes multiple damage and death to innocent species.
Global and local climate change also threatens the future of South Africa and the BCC's marine ecosystem resources. Regional climate change related trends already observed include an increase in sea surface temperature across the Benguela system, sea level rise in most parts of the system and a decrease in the winds that drive upwelling off Namibia in recent years, but a longer-term increase in those winds off the South African south coast. In particular the current very low biomasses of sardine, a key target species in both Namibia and South Africa, have forced the industries in those two countries to explore and begin to implement quite drastic adaptation options. Climate-related changes in wind, upwelling, sea surface temperature, productivity, oxygen levels, storm frequency, precipitation, freshwater flow and runoff patterns, may all have impacts on estuaries, inshore and offshore ecosystems. These changes are likely to affect resource and habitat diversity, resource abundance, fish behaviour and physiology, resource catchability, fish size and fishing opportunities and success, which in turn will affect commercial and subsistence fishing livelihoods and recreational fisheries and their associated industries.
2020 Activities
Recently, the BCC Ocean Youth Ambassadors hosted an awareness event in Gansbaai on 18th December in partnership with the Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) under the Slogan "A Clean Sea is My Responsibility" which links with our 2020 theme of tackling marine pollution (with the hashtag of Youth and the Ocean). It was a beach clean-up campaign that highlighted the problems of nurdles and other plastic pollution.