Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, said the second international Indian Ocean Expedition, which saw the "SA Agulhas II" depart from Durban on Wednesday, 18 October, would help access data that could be used to prepare for ocean-related challenges in developing countries.

The Minister said this when addressing research scientists during a send-off ceremony at the Cape Town Waterfront on Friday, 13 October.

"The Indian Ocean remains one of the least studied ocean regions and billions of people are relying on the Indian Ocean, often living under vulnerable community situations in their countries.

"Our improved understanding of the Indian Ocean, how it impacts on countries and their people, will allow much better local planning and implementation of our programmes for the betterment of the lives of our people.

"And this improved knowledge has equally important functions V it will allow countries to better plan for threats associated with climate change, including storm surges, sea levels rising and coastal erosion.

The expedition is a multinational programme of the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which emphasises the need to research the Indian Ocean and its influence on the climate and its marine ecosystem.

South Africa's contribution to the expedition is an African research cruise along the East Coast of Africa by the SA Agulhas II.

The Minister said the first multidisciplinary African-led scientific research cruise would see scientists and students from South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt all collaborate on the expedition.

The first International Indian Ocean Expedition took place in the 1960s.

The Minister said soon, the outcomes of the expedition would help South Africa and other African governments to become less dependent on developed countries and multinational corporations for data.

"It is our hope that South Africa's contribution to this research platform will stimulate regional interest by older and especially younger scientific minds. I am specifically proud of our researchers that will be working on this cruise with our regional friends," she said.

Ashley Johnson, the Director of Ocean Research at the Department of Environmental Affairs, said the voyage, which would see the SA Agulhas II explore the oceans between Durban and Tanzania, would be a month-long cruise with a number of stops.

"What we are trying to do firstly is to get the region to have a coordinated approach to ocean science. We also cannot assume that everyone has the same level of understanding. So, the cruise is ultimately aimed at trying to build capacity across the region but while you are undertaking science, what we are trying to achieve is to get a baseline of information because without the baseline, you can't do anything else." V Source: SAnews.gov.za