World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa is keen on getting more zones to be classified as marine protected areas (MPA) and is actively seeking public support to get an additional 22 zones listed as MPAs.
For those of you who are not aware, MPA is a critical sanctuary for protection of marine environment which is either a “no-take” zone where no fishing is allowed or a “controlled” area where only limited fishing activities are allowed due to the status of the biodiversity and depending on the stock of fisheries in the zone.
At present less than 0.5 per cent of South Africa’s oceans are formally protected compared to 8 per cent of the land. There are 24 MPAs in South Africa and 22 new MPAs that have been proposed as part of the government’s Operation Phakisa, but they still need public support to make them a reality.
To discuss the challenges and opportunities for the protection of priority biodiversity areas in South African seas, around hundred stakeholders from across the country’s Marine Protected Areas are gathering in the Sardinia Bay area from 25 to 27 October. Among the topics to be highlighted at the 9th annual South African MPA forum are research results on kelp growth in the De Hoop area, whether MPAs help to conserve great white sharks and what we are learning from the growing body of work on baited underwater remote videos.
WWF South Africa is convening the forums along with the Department of Environmental Affairs and will see participation from representatives from government, management agencies, research organisations, academia, NGOs, coastal communities and others.
The forum will also see the launch of a new website created to enhance communication, management and training of MPA staff by ensuring that relevant, up-to-date information is easily accessible. WWF-SA has also helped to develop a short training course in MPA management which has been registered with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Forum coordinator Robin Adams comments: “Oceans play a critical role in regulating our climate and providing food resources. In South Africa, fishing and coastal development are among the main threats which place enormous pressure on marine biodiversity. This is one of the main reasons why we need to prioritise the protection of our coastal marine areas.”
Senior manager of WWF-SA’s Marine Programme John Duncan says: “Effective management of MPAs should benefit both the planet and people in many ways. By protecting natural habitats, we also guard against the impacts of climate change while species will benefit if migration routes and habitats become a safe haven for spawning of fish larvae and growth of juvenile fish to help with stock replenishment.”
The three-day event, funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs Oceans and Coast (DEA O&C) branch and organised by the MPA forum secretariat, is being held at a venue close to the Sardinia Bay MPA.