all the amazing spaces in wild South Africa. She believes that, when it comes to success, teamwork is an important factor. “I work with multiple layers of teams both inside and outside SANBI, ranging from networks of CEOs of ocean companies (fishing, mining, shipping), to scientists, to nongovernmental organisations, to individual fishers, to teams of decision makers in many spheres, nationally and internationally, and through global networks,” she outlines.
Although, in her immediate team at SANBI – an organisation that is responsible for exploring, revealing, celebrating and championing biodiversity for the benefit and enjoyment of all South Africans – Dr Sink has only one staff member, Ms Prideel Majiedt, she believes that she is critical to their successes, on a day-to-day basis, through her interaction with a network of organisations and departments and by driving activities. “Collaboration, coordination and capacity development are key elements of our teamwork,” she adds. For Dr Sink, whose mission is to keep exploring, the sky is the limit. Not surprisingly, her next goal is to develop a bigger capacitated team in her field of work. This, she trusts, she will achieve through: working with some of her ‘incubants’ such as those on the Groen Sebenza job placement programme at SANBI; other interns, students and mentees; and by listening, leading by example, inspiring, learning and being innovative.
Everything is about life and natural spaces for Dr Sink. When asked how she views her developmental progress and growth over the past year, she quickly, yet naturally, says: “Like a kelp forest: fast and strong, with many strands that grow towards the light.” It is for this reason, amongst others, that she is very passionate about the protection of South Africa’s offshore marine ecosystems and believes that more effort could go into protecting and preserving these. That is not to say that nothing is currently happening. According to Dr Sink, as a nation, we keep doing a great job and are poised for implementation. Comparatively speaking, South Africa has made some great progress in identifying the best places to protect its offshore ecosystems and resources, and there are many opportunities to secure and restore ocean ecosystems and resources and improve ocean management.
Dr Sink, who is also engaged in work to support improved knowledge and management of the high seas, believes that the ocean continues to provide not only South Africa with tremendous and often unseen economic, social and cultural benefits, but also the whole global community. One does not have to look far to realise the truth of Dr Sink’s claim. As a coastal country, South Africa is one of the few regions that has rich seafood resources, marine petroleum and marine mineral resources. These resources are important for human livelihoods and job creation. Since oceans are important for global trade activities, South Africa’s economic growth path is continually being enhanced and therefore never ceases to deliver social and economic benefits to a huge section of the population.
“Important services that are usually taken for granted include climate regulation, oxygen provision and nutrient recycling. Oceans need to be healthy in order to provide these benefits. Also, we need to bear in mind that the oceans have different, yet significant meanings, for different people. Many cultures of South Africa derive spiritual and social benefits from the ocean. Oceans provide a large number of people with places to play. They are also seen by others as being able to restore body, mind and soul. And other groups of people use the seas to make a connection with their ancestors and spiritual guides,” Dr Sink stresses.
Dr Sink, an inspiring and self-driven individual, does not have a one-dimensional approach to the environment. She actually encourages people to swim in the sea, to explore the oceans, to play on the beautiful shores. This committed explorer of spaces and all things natural even has a role model, Kristina Gjerde, a high-seas policy advisor for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an equally amazing and committed professional who spends most of her time investing in the future of the oceans.
It is Dr Sink’s belief that it is not too late for South Africans, to preserve the natural spaces that are precious, especially because we have more marine territory than land. She believes that there is still an opportunity to ensure the future of the fresh, healthy, wild food from the sea. “We can still maintain what we have if we act wisely now. Healthy marine ecosystems can and do provide benefits: food, medicine, jobs, protection from climate change, but only if they remain healthy and are managed within their limits. Much of the ocean is unexplored and has the potential for new economic opportunities. But we cannot consider our oceans to be a valuable asset and yet not treat them as a priority.”
Clearly, not even the sky could possibly limit this innovative winner of the Agri-, Aqua-, Mariculture & Agri-processing Sector Award 2012 at South Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards from making a noticeable impact on the protection and preservation of marine life as she at the same time sharpens her focus on being a committed explorer of environments.
Committed Explorer of Environments
Since the last time Dr Kerry Sink interacted with CEO magazine, this dynamic marine ecologist has been appointed permanently at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) as a marine programme manager, has taken two new mentees under her wing, and is currently working on two new projects, one involving citizen scientists and the other focusing on mapping sensitive ocean areas inhabited by marine mammals.
Dr Sink, an inspired and dedicated marine conservationist is enthusiastic about Kundalini yoga and enjoys spending her free time playing with her four-year-old son. She is also a committed explorer of
FOCUS ON EXCELLENCE | MIW
by Nomia Machebe