• Scientists have identified a new coastal current off the shores of South Africa.
  • The Southwest Madagascar Coastal Current is about 100km wide and 300m deep
  • It represents a transition zone between the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and South Africa’s temperate coastal waters


It is only about 100km wide and 300m deep, but the Southwest Madagascar Coastal Current has been a missing piece in scientists’ understanding of the waterways in the region.

South Africa’s oceans brought in more than R164 billion in 2016 and government has earmarked the ocean economy to push for much-needed economic growth and job creation. But a recent paper published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the country still has a lot to learn about the oceans around its 3,000km coastline.

“Revealing the existence of the new coastal current is an important discovery for South Africa as it adds to our understanding of the global ocean circulation and brings new insights about biological connectivity between Madagascar and South Africa,” says De Marjolaine Krug, a senior research at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

The new current moves along the south-west coast of Madagascar to the Antarctic and is a transition zone between the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and South Africa’s temperate coastal waters, says Krug.

Currents are vital in the movement of fish, as well as climate patterns. “Countries have to manage their coastal and marine resources in a way that will ensure the safeguarding of ecosystems,” says Heriniaina Ramanantsoa, lead author and part of the Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research hosted at University of the Cape Town.

“Sustainability is closely linked to how well we manage our marine resources. The more we understand and know, the better we can manage our marine resources,” Ramanantsoa says.

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