The African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme, or ACEP, is a research foundation formed in early in the 21st century to focus on recent discoveries of an ancient fish called the coelacanth along several locations in Southern Africa.

The ACEP is one of the flagship programmes of South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF). The NRF works to encourage and support research in all area including science, humanities, and technology.

As a flagship programme, the ACEP has been brought together to increase research and participation, encourage new and innovative approaches, increase knowledge and bring in the attention of the public in regards to their work with the coelacanth population. The ACEP is working in areas of research, knowledge, public relations, and education in the various affected South African countries including Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania.

The ACEP has even developed its own motto, “Window to the Past, Door to the Future”, to demonstrate their goal of studied this ancient species with the intention that these discoveries might tell us more about where we have all come from.

What are coelacanths?

A coelacanth is an ancient prehistoric fish, once believed to be extinct. It is a bony, lobe-finned fish found in salt water. Archaeologists have dated this fish to be even older than the dinosaurs. A coelacanth has a three-lobed tail fin and fleshy pectoral fins. It is the last of the lobe-finned fish variety and commonly believed to be the ancestor of all of today’s current fish species. Before 1938, when the first living one was discovered, scientists had only found fossils of this fish.

Since the discovery of coelacanths in modern times, the marine biologists, scientists and historians have been fascinated with the study of this fish. Many expeditions have been mounted with the purpose of learning more about coelacanths and new discoveries of this fish continue to be made.