Why are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) important?

Our oceans make it possible for us to survive. One out of every two breaths we take comes from our oceans, they buffer the impact of climate change and they feed us. If we don’t protect them we simply doom ourselves to extinction.

What makes MPAs critical to ocean protection?

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) provide safe spaces for our oceans’ fish, sharks and other species to breed and to recover from our harvesting and exploitation of these resources.

What will South Africa gain from having MPAs?

Formally protecting 30% of our oceans’ will allow South Africa to utilize the balance of its’ ocean space to underwrite the sustainable development of our economy.

Why are MPAs important for species protection?

Many MPAs are designed to protect the breeding and feeding areas of heavily harvested fish species. The protection of these breeding and feeding areas will allow us to sustainably harvest these fisheries in the long term.

Why are MPAs important for community livelihoods?

Many of South Africa’s coastal communities rely on our oceans for their livelihood, through a mix of tourism, inshore fishing and rocky shore resource harvesting activities. In the absence of local MPAs, we will see our oceans deteriorate to the point where tourists will no longer find them attractive, fisheries will collapse, and the rocky shores will be stripped bare. So MPAs underwrite and support sustainable livelihoods.

Why are MPAs important for commercial and subsistence fisheries?

Commercial and subsistence fisheries rely on the safe and sustainable breeding stock that allow the fisheries to replenished annually. Many MPAs have been established to do just this, underwriting the security and safety of these fisheries. In the absence of these MPAs we have, and will, see the collapse of these fisheries.

What impact will the establishment of new MPAs have on South Africa's economy?

The establishment of an expanded network of Marine Protected Areas will stimulate the growth of the South African economy, as it will allow for the sustainable development of ocean focused tourism activities, the safe extraction of oil & gas resources and the sustainable development and use of fisheries.

Is 5% protection of South Africa’s waters enough?

Global scientific wisdom is showing that we need to effectively protect at least 30% of our oceans to enable and support long term sustainable use. 5% simply doesn’t allow for anywhere near enough protection of our oceans, and the existing and proposed development activities are simply going to see irreparable damage to our ocean resources.

Are there areas along the South African coastline that are non-negotiable for protection?

There are most definitely key ocean breeding and feeding areas that simply must be protected, together with the beautiful and unusual features unique to our oceans that our generation can either destroy or save for future generations.

Will the South African government be able to enforce the management and protection of newly established MPAs?

The South African government has stated its commitment to effectively manage and protect existing and future MPAs. We know that it will take time to source and develop the resources required to achieve this, but this is not a reason not to move forward with the proclamation process now. There isn’t a protected area on the planet that didn’t start life with limited management and protection. The proclamation of new MPAs is a clear statement that the South African government believes that these areas need to be protected and is committed to achieving this.

What benefits do MPAs have:

Marine Protected Areas can have Social, Ecological, Cultural and Economic benefits as listed below. The flow of these benefits to a country’s citizens can be achieved through good management.

Benefits that are provided by MPA’s include;

  • Spill over effect which occurs when marine resources within an MPA is allowed to naturally thrive and grow due to its protection resulting in the spill over of marine resources into the areas outside the MPA boundaries
  • Protection of marine biodiversity and increased productivity due to species/habitat protection and management within an MPA
  • Benchmarking of environmental health – By protecting pristine habitats within an MPA scientists can use these sites as a benchmark to measure progress when rehabilitating damaged habitat sites outside an MPA
  • Cultural values that have been present in areas before they were declared MPA’s will be protected and exposed to MPA visitors within various MPA visitor and education programs
  • Providing recreational and tourism opportunities for both local and foreign visitors
  • MPA’s provide the platform/venue for education and science to be taught to visitors and learners through formal programs and signage.
  • The benefits provided by eco systems to humans can increase resilience and improve maintenance of the ecosystem services present in MPA’s
  • The protection of geological features and/or processes
Can I catch fish in an MPA?

Yes and No

This depends on whether an MPA is zoned as Restricted or Controlled

If an MPA is zoned as Restricted that means no fishing is allowed in that zoned restricted area

If an MPA is zoned as Controlled you may then fish in that controlled area providing you have a valid permit and adhere to the various fish size and bag limit regulations.

Please note that some MPA’s are zoned as;

  • Completely Restricted where no fishing is allowed in an MPA or
  • Completely Controlled where fishing is allowed in the entire MPA providing you have a fishing permit and adhere to the fish size and bag limit regulations or
  • An MPA can have areas that are Restricted and Controlled within the same MPA where specific areas are zoned for fishing and areas zoned where you are not allowed to fish.

For more information on the MPA zonings please check out the MPA Forum website at http://mpaforum.org.za/

Can I volunteer at the MPA close to me?

South Africa’s MPAs are managed by different management authorities (i.e Sanparks, CapeNature, ECPTA, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, City of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro) so it is important to know which management authority to approach when enquiring about volunteering in an MPA. You will find that not all MPAs have the capacity to accommodate volunteers and all contact details for SA’s MPAs can be found on the MPA Forum website link http://mpaforum.org.za/

How are MPAs established in South Africa?

In terms of South African law, a marine protected area can only be declared in terms National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (NEMPAA). Since 2014, the declaration and regulation and management of marine protected areas has been incorporated into NEMPAA. The National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Amendment Act, 2014 (NEMPAAA) repealed Section 43 of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998 in order to bring marine protected areas into South Africa’s protected area regime. Section 22A(2) of NEMPAAA outlines the purposes and requirements for declaring a marine protected area. In terms of this section, a marine protected area may only be declared:

  • To conserve and protect marine and coastal ecosystems;
  • To conserve and protect marine and coastal biodiversity;
  • To conserve and protect a particular marine or coastal species, or specific population and its habitat;
  • If the area contains scenic areas or to protect cultural heritage;
  • To facilitate marine and coastal species management by protecting migratory routes and breeding, nursery or feeding areas, thus allowing species recovery and to enhance species abundance in adjacent areas;
  • To protect and provide an appropriate environment for research and monitoring in order to achieve the objectives of this Act; or
  • To restrict or prohibit activities which are likely to have an adverse effect on the environment.

Section 22A(3) provides that a notice of declaration of a marine protected area may only be issued after consultation with the Cabinet member responsible for fisheries.

Is mineral mining and prospecting and petroleum exploration and production permitted in a Marine Protected Area?

No, mineral prospecting and mining and petroleum exploration and production in marine protected areas is strictly prohibited by Section 48 of NEMPAAA. Section 48(1) states:

Despite other legislation, no person may conduct commercial prospecting or mining, exploration, production or related activities (in a marine protected area).

Accordingly, mineral prospecting and mining and petroleum exploration or production, and all related activities, including seismic surveys, are explicitly prohibited in marine protected areas.

What other activities are restricted in Marine Protected Areas?

Section 48(A) regulates the restriction of activities in marine protected areas. Section 48(A) states that no person may, in a marine protected area—

  • Fish or attempt to fish;
  • Take or destroy any fauna or flora;
  • Undertake any dredging or extraction of sand, rock, gravel or minerals unrelated to any activities referred to in section 48(1);
  • Discharge or deposit waste or any other polluting matter;
  • In any manner which results in an adverse effect on the marine environment, disturb, alter or destroy the natural environment or disturb or alter the water quality or abstract sea water;
  • Carry on any activity which may have an adverse effect on the ecosystem of the area;
  • Construct or erect any building or other structure on or over any land or water within such a marine protected area;
  • Carry on marine aquaculture activities;
  • Engage in bio-prospecting activities;
  • Sink or scuttle any platform, vessel or other structure; or
  • Undertake mineral exploration, and production of petroleum and other fossil fuels.

However, section 48A(2) provides that, notwithstanding the above restrictions, the Minister may prescribe different zones to regulate different activities within a marine protected area if such zoning achieves or does not negatively impact on the objectives or purpose of establishing the marine protected area in the first place. Thus, for instance, many of the proposed offshore marine protected areas, under Initiative 8 of Operation Phakisa, include zones that permit fishing activities that are not contrary to the management objectives of the marine protected area in question.