South Africa names four new MPAs

Four new marine protected areas (MPAs) are to be proclaimed along the Cape coastline, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk announced on Friday.

In a statement issued to mark the launch of National Marine Week, he said the four new areas will bring South Africa’s total number of MPAs to 27, covering almost one-fifth of its coastal waters up to one nautical mile offshore.

MPAs are the marine equivalent of national parks, and serve as safe havens for fish species and other marine life.

“I am … very pleased today to announce our intention to proclaim, by February next year, four new marine protected areas in South Africa, at Stilbaai, Kei, Gonubie and Gxulu,” Van Schalkwyk said.

The minister’s announcement was welcomed by the conservation organisation WWF-SA, which said in a statement later on Friday that the establishment of more MPAs will bring additional security to South Africa’s marine ecosystems.

It warned, however, that management of existing MPAs is far from ideal.

The statement quoted WWF marine programme manager Dr Deon Nel as saying many of the existing MPAs are “not adequately managed, and are suffering from drastic resource limitations”.

A WWF assessment of the state of MPA management in South Africa also revealed, “staff were not adequately qualified to manage marine areas, and that many MPAs did not have management plans”.

According to Van Schalkwyk, the Stilbaai MPA will include the area between Noordkapperspunt and Rietvleivywers, as well as the estuary of the Goukou River to a point 15km upstream and extending about 4,2km off-shore. It will extend the existing Geelkrans Reserve.

The Kei MPA will include the coastal area between the mouths of the Nyara and Kei rivers, extending three nautical miles seaward.

The Gonubie MPA will include the area from Nahoon Point to Gonubie Point, extending three nautical miles seaward.

The Gxulu MPA will cover the area from Christmas Rock to the mouth of the Gxulu River, also extending three nautical miles seaward.

The intention to proclaim the four new MPAs will be published in the Government Gazette, and members of the public and interested or affected stakeholders will have three months to submit written comments to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

Van Schalkwyk also announced details of a further four major new MPAs to be established in the near future.

“We still have much work that remains if we are to meet our international commitments and responsibilities.

“This is especially true when we consider that, even with 27 MPAs, we will have less than 1% of our economic exclusion zone under formal protection, and less than 10% of our coastal waters as ‘no take’ areas.

“This is why we will also be working to proclaim, in the near future, major new MPAs including Namaqualand (which will be our largest yet), Prince Edward Islands, Kogelberg, and Agulhas Bank,” he said.

The department is to launch its National State of the Coast Report on Wednesday next week

Source: Mail & Guardian Online/Sapa