An additional network of 20 Marine Protected Areas proposed by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) have been approved by the Cabinet, increasing the percentage of protected oceans in South Africa.

The DEA announced the increase in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) after approval from the Cabinet on October 24 2018.

All stakeholders were consulted to ensure the new network aligned with regulatory policies relating to tourism, marine mining and others.

The effort to increase the number of MPAs started in 2014, when the government committed to achieving a viable network, in line with Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economy.

There are now 45 official protected marine areas in the country, increasing from 0.4% to 5%, to meet government Ocean Economy and Sustainability Goals.

DEA Acting Minister, Derek Hanekom, commented on the impact the new MPAs will have.

“This network of 20 MPAs, approved by Cabinet on Wednesday, 24 October 2018, will considerably advance South Africa’s efforts to protect our ocean heritage for future generations. They will contribute to fisheries sustainability, advance marine ecotourism, and will help maintain resilience in ecosystems that are under stress from climate change”, said the Acting Minister of Environmental Affairs,” Hanekom said.

MPAs are designated areas of the coastline that are protected to achieve long term conservation for nature and the human population.

The areas of ocean conservation are essential to the environment. They provide a safe breeding ground for fish, an undisturbed natural habitat for various marine life and combat climate change by regulating the exchange of Carbon Dioxide.

Hanekom explains the importance of protecting our oceans.

“As we grow and intensify the ocean economy, it is essential to provide the necessary protection to a representative sample of marine ecosystems, thereby ensuring their resilience to human use and impact, and to the impacts associated with climate change,” said Hanekom

In addition, the increase of MPAs will facilitate growth towards the 2020 Global Target in the Decadal Plan of the Convention of Biodiversity to advance protection to 10%.

“MPAs are important in maintaining ecosystem functioning and structure as well as protecting biological diversity. The approved 20 new MPAs are a significant step towards meeting the global 2020 target,” said Hanekom

Marine Protected areas do not only protect our oceans but support and promote fisheries, sustainability, climate adaptation and marine eco-tourism.

 

Picture: Marine Protected Areas 

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about social issues, the environment and current affairs.