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The South African Association for Marine Biological Research SAAMBR


SAAMBR, founded in 1951, is a unique Non-Government, Non Profit Company and Public Benefit Organisation. In 2004, SAAMBR became the cornerstone of uShaka Marine World in Durban. For over 70 years SAAMBR has contributed to the conservation of marine and coastal resources in the Western Indian Ocean by operating three integrally linked divisions:

Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI)

uShaka Sea World

uShaka Sea World Education

SAAMBR Mission
To contribute to the conservation of marine and coastal resources by generating scientific information through the Oceanographic Research Institute, a leading marine science research institute in the Western Indian Ocean Region; disseminating information and inspiring care for the oceans through uShaka Sea World, Africa’s largest world class, conservation-oriented aquarium and empowering people through uShaka Sea World Education, the leading marine conservation education centre in Africa.


To be internationally recognised as the most effective, science-based advocate for the conservation of the marine and coastal resources of the Western Indian Ocean.

SAAMBR History 
Inspired by the natural beauty and rich coastal and marine biodiversity of KwaZulu-Natal, a group of conservationists, academics and fishermen undertook an expedition in 1947 to the remote northern part of the coast. 
Although impressed by the diversity of marine life, they recognised the fragile nature of the ecosystems and the close interdependence between resources and coastal communities. Concerned about the future of marine conservation in South Africa, they conceived the establishment of a not-for-profit marine research organisation that would generate knowledge about marine and coastal resources and provide decision support for people and their leaders. As far as possible, funding would be self-generated through the operations of a public aquarium in the popular holiday town of Durban.

The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) was therefore established in 1951.  In 1959 the complex housing the Durban Centenary Aquarium, research laboratories and a fine library was officially opened, followed by the dolphinarium complex in 1976.

SAAMBR moved from the old aquarium site on Durban’s South beach, to new premises at uShaka Marine World in 2004.

SAAMBR continues to serve the people of KwaZulu-Natal, while playing an increasingly important role in marine scientific endeavour in South Africa and other areas of the Western Indian Ocean.


Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI)

SAAMBR’s Oceanographic Research Institute is based at uShaka Marine World in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Much of the work of the institute is focused on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. It is also a leader in marine research in the Western Indian Ocean region, and has worked on projects in all of the countries and island states along Africa’s east coast.


ORI covers a number of areas of expertise and offers a range of marine science services: scientific investigation, management advice, training and capacity building, and consulting.

Scientific areas of expertise include:

Marine and coastal resources of the western Indian Ocean: fishes, sharks and invertebrates
Coral reef ecology and biology in the western Indian Ocean
Estuarine functioning

Habitat modelling
Marine Protected Area design and management
Coastal zone management
Genetic basis for stock discrimination and species connectivity


Biodiversity assessments, particularly of reefs and soft sediments Training and capacity building include:

Supervision of post-graduate students
Specifically designed training courses for management and conservation agencies.


Consulting services include:

Impact assessment on marine resources, fisheries and ecosystems
Assessments for ecocertification of resources


Apart from administrative facilities and office infrastructure for staff, as an independent, marine and coastal science-orientated research organisation, the Oceanographic Research Institute is equipped with:

Dry laboratories
Wet laboratories
Student facilities
A marine research aquarium
Boats and associated storage facilities
SCUBA diving gear
Sampling equipment for a variety of habitats and resources

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