Draft regulations boost SA’s ocean protection


Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has published draft notices and regulations in the Government Gazette to declare a network of 22 new proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as part of Operation Phakisa.

“The declaration of these new MPAs aims to create approximately 70 000km² of marine protected areas, bringing our ocean protection within the South African Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to more than 5%,” the Department of Environmental Affairs said on Tuesday.

At present, less than 0.5% of South Africa’s ocean ecosystems are formally protected compared to approximately 8% of terrestrial protected areas such as the Kruger National Park and Table Mountain National Park.

The MPAs were identified through Operation Phakisa‚ a presidential project to fast track the development of South Africa’s ocean economy.

The following are proposed for declaration as MPAs: iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Aliwal Shoal, Agulhas Front, Cape Canyon, Childs Bank, Protea Banks, Browns Bank Complex, Benguela Bank, Browns Bank Corals, Namaqua Fossil Forest, Namaqua National Park, Robben Island, Agulhas Bank Complex, Agulhas Muds, Amathole Offshore, Benguela Muds, Port Elizabeth Corals, Addo Elephant Park, Southeast Atlantic Seamount, Southwest Indian Seamount, uThukela Banks and Orange Shelf Edge.
“Many of these new MPAs aim to protect offshore ecosystems and species, ranging from deep areas along the Namibian border to a more than tenfold expansion of iSimangaliso Wetland Park in the KwaZulu-Natal province,” the department said.

They include charismatic features such as a fossilised yellow wood forest at a depth of 120m off Port Nolloth, a deep cold-water coral reef standing 30m high off the seabed near Port Elizabeth and a world famous diving destination where seven shark species aggregate at Protea Banks in KwaZulu-Natal.

These MPAs also include undersea mountains, canyons, sandy plains, deep and shallow muds and diverse gravel habitats with unique fauna.
“The new MPAs will secure protection of marine habitats like reefs, mangroves and coastal wetlands which are required to help protect coastal communities from the results of storm surges, rising sea-levels and extreme weather,” the department said.

These MPAs will protect vulnerable habitats and secure spawning grounds for various marine species, therefore helping to sustain fisheries and ensure long-term benefits that are important to food and job security.

MPAs are increasingly being used as a tool for the achievement of biodiversity, fisheries management, tourism and research objectives.