Sustainable Seas Trust CEO, Dr Tony Ribbink, re-established links with the East London museum recently when he gave a presentation - East London: Unsung Jewel of Coastal South Africa – at the museum in March 2015.
Tony’s links with the museum were very strong when he was running the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Program (ACEP) because he would deliver regular reports on discoveries of coelacanths to Dr Marjorie Courtney-Latimer as well as two annual public lectures on ACEP. In addition, the International Coelacanth Conference was arranged jointly by Tony and his team with the East London Museum.
SST Patron, Mission Blue Founder and Hope Spot architect, Dr Sylvia Earle with Dr Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, who in 1938 brought to the attention of the world the existence of the coelacanth, thought to have been extinct for sixty-five million years.
Although SST arose from ACEP the visits to the East London Museum by SST have been less frequent than before as the focus of SST has moved away from coelacanths to some extent and is now on conservation and poverty alleviation through education. Education is of critical importance to all of South Africa, especially the Eastern Cape. At the lecture the potential of East London as an educational hub was discussed and there seem to be good reasons for the East London Museum and SST combining forces to address the challenges.
In the presentation Tony also described the launch of South Africa’s first six Hope Spots which led to a vigorous discussion regarding the promotion of the Amatola District as a Hope Spot, the audience seemed keen for this to occur as they felt it would also promote local marine conservation Geraldine Morcom, the acting director of museum, who kindly hosted the function, suggested that an ideal iconic animal for an East London/Amatola Hope Spot would be the coelacanth, given the historic association of East London with the coelacanth since Dr Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer’s discovery in December 1938.
Tony indicated that East London and its adjacent coast does have cause to be a Hope Spot given its unique coast and potential as a tourism, education and conservation area. The Amatola coast could become an International Hope Spot if the cause were championed.
The presentation also afforded Dr Ribbink the opportunity to introduce the SST coffee table book: South African Coasts - A Celebration of our Seas and Shores , featuring several images from East London photographers.