Sharing experiences – Monaco and South Africa forge more links
Another marriage between Monaco and South Africa happened yesterday, albeit of a slightly different nature to the union between Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene. But there is a tie to Prince Albert II – he is the honorary president of Monaco’s Institut Océanographique, which is now in a formal partnership with Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium.
Two Oceans Aquarium Managing Director Dr Patrick Garratt and Institut Océanographique CEO Robert Calcagno met at the 8th International Aquarium Congress to sign a landmark agreement that will see South Africa and Monaco partner in the name of ocean research, animal husbandry, conservation, education and awareness, communication and personnel training.
Speaking at the signing, Calcagno said: “The Two Oceans Aquarium and ourselves are doing the same job, which is to improve the public’s knowledge of the oceans.
“[Institut Océanographique] is more than 100 years old and was founded by Prince Albert I. Today, Prince Albert II is our honorary president and he is very supportive of us.
“Both Pat [Garratt] and myself try to understand scientific issues better so that we can explain them to policy makers. It’s very important to lobby for progressively better policies, rules and regulations [in ocean conservation].”
South Africa and Monaco may be very far apart in terms of geography, and in terms of ecology, but the differences are what make this partnership so valuable.
“Our histories are different and our seas, the fauna and flora, are different,” said Calcagno. But it is for these reasons the research and knowledge developed by each institution fills gaps that the other might have.
Calcagno mentioned shark research as an example.
“At the Monaco Blue Initiative – where we gather policy makers, media, entrepreneurs and scientists – a very important point was identified by scientists: the importance of sharks. To be frank, we weren’t very involved with sharks, the Mediterranean doesn’t have many sharks, especially compared to your [South African] seas.
“But shark research and shark release done by the Two Oceans Aquarium can help us. We are working on an exhibition, a book in French and a series of conferences on sharks to make people aware that sharks are not dangerous, scary Jaws creatures – they are in fact cornerstone species.”
Calcagno and his team at the Institut Océanographique hope to bring the story of Maxine, a ragged-tooth shark released by the Two Oceans Aquarium team (led by aquarium curator Michael Farquhar), to Monaco next year.
Two Oceans Aquarium Curator Michael Farquhar acted as witness at yesterday’s sea-significant signing. Said Farquhar: “This is the start of an exciting international collaboration. We’ll collaborate on the appropriate projects to help improve the fields of animal husbandry, education, research and awareness.”
Dr Garratt stressed the fortuity of forging this kind of link with Monaco’s Institut Océanographique. “They are masters of coral cultivation, and we’re leaders in the field of shark research,” he said.
A marriage of this kind – based on shared interests, complementary traits, respect for the oceans and a mutual understanding of the environmental challenges – can only bode well for an industry that wears many hats: entertainment and tourism, education, research, aquaculture and conservation.
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