AS WE draw the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s at­ten­tion to in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in our coun­try, we ob­serve that our planet’s oceans are trend­ing – but not in a good, “hot spot for hol­i­days” way.

There are rag­ing de­bates over ev­ery­thing from plas­tic par­ti­cles in the fish we catch to the degra­da­tion and pol­lu­tion of the oceans that cover more than 70 per­cent of our planet’s sur­face.

Many com­pa­nies re­alise they must direct fund­ing to help pro­tect this pre­cious nat­u­ral re­source.

Hav­ing al­ready steered this course, we can of­fer some point­ers.

Ini­tially, grow­ing cus­to­di­an­ship of the ocean as one of our ma­jor so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity strands emerged as an au­then­tic con­nec­tion to our com­pany her­itage. Our cor­po­rate fore­bears merged en­trepreneur­ship and the po­ten­tial of ocean trade more than a cen­tury ago.

Though Grindrod Ship­ping was spun off into a sep­a­rate JSE list­ing last year, Grindrod Bank is still head­quar­tered in Dur­ban, Africa’s big­gest port. We re­alised we were ide­ally placed to sup­port cer­tain threads of the Phak­isa Oceans Econ­omy plan. It is es­ti­mated that South Africa’s in­creased use of this lit­tle tapped re­source has the po­ten­tial to con­trib­ute up to R177 bil­lion to gross do­mes­tic prod­uct and cre­ate more than 1 mil­lion jobs by 2033.

We saw po­ten­tial for us to give sup­port to fo­cus ar­eas such as marine pro­tec­tion, re­search and tourism.

We part­nered with Wildtrust, a lead­ing South African en­vi­ron­men­tal non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion. In 2015, we jointly founded The Blue Fund.

We have suc­ceeded in at­tract­ing other part­ners – and wel­come more.

A cru­cial fac­tor in the ap­peal of Wildtrust for us was the way it fos­ters hu­man-en­vi­ron­ment nexus. Un­der its Wil­do­ceans ban­ner, for ex­am­ple, the Ocean Stew­ards project sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of marine bi­ol­ogy skills by of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from bur­saries for ter­tiary stud­ies to fa­cil­i­tat­ing ocean re­search trips.

The in­ter­na­tional fo­cus on the oceans has helped boost the pop­u­lar­ity of whale watch­ing across the globe. The fo­cus in South Africa has been in the Western Cape.

But the re­al­ity of the long whale mi­gra­tion up from their Antarc­tic feed­ing grounds to the Cape coast and north around our coast, usu­ally in June and July, to breed­ing grounds in Mozam­bique and Mada­gas­car is be­com­ing bet­ter known.

At this time of year, the adults are re­turn­ing south with their calves, with whales be­ing seen off the KZN coasts of­ten as late as year-end.

David Polk­inghorne is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Grindrod Bank

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