SA's minimal marine protection in controversial spotlight as DEA plans 22 new zones

2016-02-12 13:30 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - The Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa has invited the public to comment on a proposal to declare a network of 22 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in South Africa.

These MPAs would be declared as part of the Operation Phakisa Initiative, Molewa stated in the Government Gazette on Wednesday, 3 February 2016. 

This comes after great controversy over the proposal to rezone the already existing Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area in the Garden Route National Park. 

After opening this MPA for a pilot fishing project in December last year, the Department of Environmental Affairs was ordered by the High Court to cease all recreational angling in the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA), with immediate effect. 

The DEA at the time said they "have reached a settlement agreement" with the Friends of the Tsitsikamma Association, a group which campaigned relentlessly to stop the pilot recreational angling project. But all is not settled, it appears. 

On the other side of the spectrum, locals who are looking to use the fishing as a means of economic empowerment and a means of providing food for their families are not happy about the halted fishing, allegedly threatening the safety of hikers in the Garden Route National Park in protest against the decision.

The Garden Route has called for calm following these threats, but the jury is still out on what the outcome of the rezoning and sustainable fishing measures in the area would be. 

READ: SANParks calls for calm after Tsitsikamma anglers threaten Otter Trail hikers

In reference to the 22 newly proposed MPA's Edna Molewa stated that, "The declaration of these new MPAs aims to create approximately 70 000 km2 of marine protected areas, bringing our ocean protection within the South African Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to more than 5%".

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 following places are proposed for declaration as Marine Protected Areas:

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
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.

They include charismatic features, such as, 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.

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

The draft regulations are aimed at accelerating the implementation of management for ecologically and biological significant areas. Species that stand to be protected include threatened seabirds, fish and turtles through protection of their feeding areas, nursery and spawning grounds as well as key migration areas. 

Operation Phakisa is a presidential project to fast-track the development of South Africa’s Ocean Economy. Read more on the project here

Members of the public are invited to submit written representations or comments in connection with the proposed declaration and regulations to the following address within 90 days from the date of publication in the Government Gazette.

Comments can be submitted by post to:

The Deputy Director-General: Department of Environmental Affairs
Branch: Oceans and Coasts
P.O. Box 52126
V&A Waterfront,
Cape Town, 8002

Comments can be submitted by hand at:

Department of Environmental Affairs,
Branch: Oceans and Coasts
East Pier Building 2
East Pier Road
V&A Waterfront,
Cape Town 

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