The recent gazetting of 20 new marine protected areas (MPAs) in terms of South Africa’s Operation Phakisa to develop the blue economy is welcoming and at the same time puts a bigger obligation on maritime and maritime resource protection.
Timothy Walker, a senior researcher at the Pretoria-headquartered Institute for Security Studies (ISS) who specialises in the blue economy both nationally and continentally, said the Ministerial announcement was “gratifying”.
The announcement by Barbara Creecy, recently appointed Minister of Environmental Affairs with the forestry and fisheries portfolios added to her responsibilities, indicated the additional MPAs would increase South Africa’s marine ecosystem area under protection in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), from the current 0.4% to 5.4%, to provide protection to 90% of habitat types.
Walker pointed out the 5.4% area “slightly exceeded” the target set by Operation Phakisa, the initiative to boost South Africa’s blue economy launched six years ago.
“What is needed is continued protection and monitoring. This increases the obligation of the SA Navy and the new Department of Environmental Affairs which includes forestry and fisheries to patrol and ensure these areas contribute both in terms of sustainability and resilience,” he said, adding the OCIMS (the national oceans and coastal information management system) will be “a great tool” in ensuring this happens.
The SA Navy currently only has two dedicated offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) in the fleet with three under construction. Other naval assets, including the Valour Class frigates, Heroine Class submarines, hydrographic vessel SAS Protea and the supply SAS Drakensberg have and will, in all probability, continue with patrol taskings.
At the core of operation Phakisa are marine transport and manufacturing; offshore oil and gas exploration; aquaculture; marine protection and ocean governance; small harbours and coastal and marine tourism.
Welcoming the new MPA network, Creecy said it was a product of a product of extensive consultation and negotiation with all stakeholders, ensuring it is aligned with relevant policies and priorities for fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, as well as marine mining and oil exploration and protection of ecologically important areas.