Until relatively recently, the Cape Verde Islands were uncharted territory for German oceanographers, a situation that changed fundamentally in 2004. Since scientists began to focus on issues such as oxygen minimum zones in the ocean, inputs of trace metals, oceanic eutrophication, and volcanic hot spots, this group of islands off the coast of West Africa has become an ideal logistics base for oceanographic research.

GEOMAR scientists from Kiel have done pioneering work here, and together with other German and foreign scientists have developed the Cape Verde Islands into a research base, turning them into a home from home (port) in the north-eastern tropical Atlantic. Even if finances in the Cape Verde Islands are limited, the friendly welcome and support given to Kiel-based scientists in recent years has been exceptional.

Till Keulen of Deutsche Bank, Prime Minister José Maria Neves, Professor Peter Herzig, Professor Klaus Töpfer (left to right). Photograph: A. Villwock, GEOMAR

In recognition of the excellent working conditions available in the Cape Verde Islands, the ‘Deutscher Meerespreis’ for 2012 was awarded to the Cape Verdean Prime Minister, José Maria Neves. The presentation was held on 27 April 2012 at the GEOMAR Institute in Kiel. “We want to strengthen relations with the Cape Verde Islands even more in future, and are working hard to make further improvements to the scientific infrastructure for researchers there”, GEOMAR’s director Peter Herzig said. “Issues such as climate research, fishing, volcanism, and biodiversity will remain the focus of our work there in future. As the representative of his country’s government, Prime Minister José Maria Neves deserves our special thanks for its willingness to cooperate”, Professor Herzig said. Till Keulen of Deutsche Bank’s senior management said the bank was pleased to recognize the remarkable cooperation between GEOMAR and the Republic of Cape Verde. While the cash prize in this case was more symbolic in nature, Deutsche Bank felt it was very important to set an example of scientific cooperation with developing countries.

In his laudatory address, Klaus Töpfer stressed the reputation of the Cape Verde Islands as a reliable and welcoming partner. Photograph: J. Steffen, GEOMAR

The former Federal Minister for the Environment and long-standing executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Professor Klaus Töpfer, now director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainabilty Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, had been invited to deliver the laudatory address. Professor Töpfer said the pioneering combination of environmental research and development co-operation in a spirit of partnership was an issue close to his heart. He emphasized that co-operation between GEOMAR and the Cape Verde Islands showed the way forward. On the basis of a stable democracy and amicable collaboration, Cape Verdean politicians, and above all José Maria Neves, had succeeded in establishing fruitful scientific co-operation between their own research institutes such as the Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Pescas (INDP) and GEOMAR in Kiel. “The people of the Cape Verde Islands have recognized just how important it is to protect and investigate the ocean that is on their doorstep. Their co-operation with oceanographers from abroad sets an excellent example”, Klaus Töpfer said, adding that Cape Verdeans benefitted from increased research activities not merely in economic terms, but also through enhanced educational and research opportunities.

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