The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) officially declared 20 marine protected areas (MPAs) in South Africa last week.
The department said in a statement on Monday that the declaration of these MPAs was similar to an insurance policy for the benefit of the current and future generations.
The network of MPAs will increase the spatial protection of South Africa’s ocean environment from the current 0.4% to 5.4%, providing protection to 90% of habitat types.
The DEA said this move was in line with South Africa’s commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity – a sister convention to those on Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
The department stated its commitment to ensuring marine conservation and sustainable use remained integral to marine management practices and decision-making.
The DEA also aims to ensure successful conservation outcomes by managing development pressures and ensuring conservation objectives are met.
The department consulted a number of State conservation agencies that decided that those MPAs with a coastal boundary would be managed by the adjacent management agencies of the South African National Parks, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, the Provincial Agency of KwaZulu-Natal and the Provincial Agency of the Eastern Cape.
For those MPAs that lie further offshore, the DEA will use its surveillance capabilities and cooperative compliance programmes with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Greenpeace Africa, in a separate statement, commented that, by deliberately protecting 20 designated marine areas, the DEA was displaying commendable leadership that would guide the way for other African countries to protect the world’s oceans.
“Greenpeace Africa celebrates this move by the department while negotiations with the United Nations around establishing a global treaty to create a network of ocean sanctuaries are ongoing.”