The creation of extensive new MPAs is a major conservation achievement and strengthens the country’s cultural and spiritual ties to its oceans.
On May 23 2019, South African Minister of Environmental Affairs Ms. Nomvula Mokonyane, officially announced the creation of twenty new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the country, in terms of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003.
The newly announced MPAs, which will take effect from 1 August this year, bring the total number of South African mainland territory MPAs from 25 to 41, and increase the area of protected oceans around the country from 0.4% to 5%. In addition, proclaimed in 2013, an MPA around the Prince Edwards Islands constitutes the country’s 42nd MPA and protects 30% of South Africa’s Southern Ocean territory.
Established along the country’s more than 2850 km-long coastline, in the waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Southern Ocean, the new MPAs will support the preservation of the rich diversity of coastal and marine ecosystems and habitats on which South Africa relies for food security, secure livelihoods, and climate resilience.
South Africa’s action constitute a major conservation achievement, and an important step towards Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, aiming for at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas to be conserved by 2020.
Dr. Adnan Awad, Director of the International Ocean Institute – Africa stated how “the recent expansion of the South African MPA network comes as the culmination of years of diligent and laudable cross-sectoral efforts, driven by good science, which has underpinned the national ocean economy initiative (Operation Phakisa). As the country continues to escalate it’s interests over the maritime domain, it is critical that the pillars of advancing research, conservation and sustainability remain central. While recognizing and celebrating the progress made to date, we must also acknowledge the weight of mounting social and environmental pressures, as well as the distance still to go in reaching commitments to SDG and Aichi targets. The progress made should therefore be seen as a stepping stone in the right direction, and a model for further expansion and replication of efforts, nationally and across the African continent. The appreciation that a further expanded and well supported MPA network can engage and empower coastal communities, and catalyze progress related to other SDG targets must continue, such that the target of 10% is understood to be a necessary minimum in the era of the emerging blue economy.”
Picture: Sencer B. Yilmaz, Unsplash