FAMOUS for being the Friendly City, notorious for being the Windy City, and part of a metro that shares a name with world icon Nelson Mandela, the city of Port Elizabeth can now add a new title to its list of names – the bottlenose capital of the world.
Scientists, leaders in tourism and ocean lovers from across Port Elizabeth came together at the Algoa Bay Yacht Club last night for the official launch of the city’s new title – one that, according to Raggy Charters owner and marine conservationist Lloyd Edwards, is long overdue.
“We were at events in Cape Town and abroad last year where we discussed the sheer number of bottlenose dolphins we have in our bay with conservationists from around the world,” he said.
Edwards, a pioneer behind the brand, said: “No one could believe we had so many here. That was really where the idea for establishing the bottlenose capital started.
“We have been doing the science behind it for years now, and we have the proof.”
Edwards, who has been running whale- and dolphin-watching tours, along with marine research, for the last 19 years, said research into dolphin species and numbers in Algoa Bay showed that more than 20 000 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were documented in the early 1990s.
That excludes vast numbers of widely spread common bottlenose dolphins, and an increase in dolphin numbers in recent years. “On average for every bottlenose dolphin you can see on the surface, there are two more beneath it,” he said.
“Since we started tours in 1997, we have seen dolphins on 90% of our tours.
“That is unprecedented for dolphin- and whale- watching tour operator around the world,” Edwards said.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism chief executive Mandlakazi Skefile said establishing the city as the bottlenose capital of the world could branch out into a number of tourism and economic possibilities.
Plans are already in place to launch a Dolphin Festival, possibly to coincide with Marine Month in October. “We live in a time when there is immense tension between people and the natural environment , ” Skefile said.
“Yet marine wealth and heritage are key aspects of our city. We need to drive education, tourism and sustainable business to bring our marine resources and activities to life.”
Leading marine life researcher in South Africa Dr Lorien Pichegru said sustainable economic growth in Nelson Mandela Bay could be promoted by blending blue economy and tourism through an initiatives such as this one.
She said the community needed to be educated more about the unique ecology of the local coastline, a natural breeding ground for countless endemic species, including bottlenose dolphins. “Everyone needs to get involved,” Pichegru said.
“The community needs to spend time at the sea and get to know Algoa Bay, its marine life, and the threats marine life face, like pollution. “By getting involved and spreading the word, everyone can contribute to our growing, sustainable economy.”