Above Picture: Dr Sue Tonin, Assistant Project Manager, John Cooper, News Correspondent and Robyn Adams, Communications Officer and Project Assistant with the Mouse-Free Marion Project display on World Oceans Day at East Pier in Cape Town Harbour; photograph by Anche Louw

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) hosted an Open Day from 8-11 June 2023 as part of its celebrations and awareness-raising efforts for the United Nations-sponsored World Oceans Day on the 8th.  The event took place in Cape Town Harbour aboard South Africa’s modern Antarctic research and supply vessel, the S.A. Agulhas II (moored at East Pier), and in the adjacent DFFE cargo packing store.  Along with other stakeholders within the South African National Antarctic Programme, the Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project exhibited in the store and attending members of the Project Team interacted with visitors.

The four-day event was visited on its first day by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy.  After interacting with several hundred school learners among the displays, she gave an address on the ship’s bridge saying, “As a nation, we have a responsibility to protect our oceans, and we are committed to working with partners both locally and internationally to ensure the long-term sustainability of our oceans and marine life”.

Minister Creecy addresses the media about World Oceans Day on the bridge of the S.A. Agulhas II, photograph by John Cooper

She continued that “South Africa is in a unique geographic position at the southern tip of Africa.  The country is surrounded by the Atlantic, Southern and Indian Oceans. Through its long-standing research efforts, aided by the S.A. Agulhas II, in Antarctica and Marion Island, South Africa has made an important contribution to the scientific understanding of the three oceans and their global impact on marine life and the health of the planet.  The theme of World Oceans Day 2023 is “Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing”. It is a reminder that despite the fact that the oceans cover most of the Earth, little attention is given to the unprecedented challenges being faced [by] the seas on which humans rely for a variety of resources, and that it is the collective responsibility of all to protect it.”  The Minister’s full speech can be read here and you can also watch a short video of her address.  Minister Creecy has previously given her full support to the MFM Project, which is a partnership between her Department and the environmental NGO BirdLife South Africa.

Robyn Adams and Sue Tonin explain a point to an attentive pair of visitors. The MFM posters behind them were designed by Michelle Risi, along with many others, they are freely available for downloading here; photograph by John Cooper

The first two days were allocated to schools, and despite exams being ongoing at the time, approximately 1000 learners attended, drawn from schools situated in the greater Cape Town area.  The MFM Project Team was kept busy explaining the need to eradicate Marion Island’s House Mice to save its breeding seabirds from attacks and describing how it will be undertaken by dropping rodenticide bait from a fleet of helicopters, as well as facing eager questioning

Sue Tonin interacts with eager school learners, photograph by John Cooper

Dr Mariëtte Wheeler, Subject Head: Marine Sciences and André Vermeulen of the Protea Heights Academy, attended the Open Day with 23 senior learners, along with Marnus Smith of the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.  Mariëtte writes to MFM News that her learners “thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be aboard the S.A. Agulhas II.  They were amazed at the size of the ship and appreciated the chance to see the oceanography equipment that they had learned about in theory, sparking their curiosity to what lies beyond the horizon.  In the words of one of my learners ‘Ma’am, this has really convinced me to take Marine Sciences’”.  Mariëtte undertook her PhD on the effects of human disturbance on the seabirds and seals of Marion Island over 2004/2005 and 2013/2014 and is a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of the MFM Project (click here).

From left: Debbie Muir (DFFE – Environmental Programmes Branch), Robyn Adams, Dr Anton Wolfaardt (MFM Project Manager) and Dr Sue Tonin on the third day of the Open Day

The next two days were devoted to the public, with 4000 free tickets taken up.  All four members of the Project Team who are based in the Western Cape Province assisted at the MFM display during the four days of the event.

On each day groups were formed to undertake guided tours of the ship to learn about the work being done aboard to monitor, research and protect the oceans and marine life.  This proved a highlight of the Open Day based on several MFM Hectare Sponsors who took part, reporting that the tours were “very interesting”, and that the ship looks to be “warm and comfortable while out at sea”.  Good news for the project team that will travel to and from Marion Island on the S.A. Agulhas II to undertake the eradication operation in winter 2025!

Walbie and Svein Osrat, aka Moustapha, MFM Project’s unofficial mascots, also attended on the first day along with their owner, the MFM News Correspondent! Photograph by John Cooper

With thanks to Anche Louw, Digital Marketing and Communications Manager, South African Polar Research Infrastructure.

John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 13 June 2023


Grey-headed Albatross Ridge, Marion Island; photograph by John Dickens, poster design by Michelle Risi


The Mouse-Free Marion Project is a registered non-profit company (No. 2020/922433/08) in South Africa, established to eradicate the invasive albatross-killing mice on Marion Island in the Southern Ocean.  The project was initiated by BirdLife South Africa and the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.  Upon successful completion, the project will restore the critical breeding habitat of over two million seabirds, many globally threatened, and improve the island’s resilience to a warming climate.  For more information or to support the project please visit mousefreemarion.org.