Trust asks SA to extend protection of the ocean
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THE Wildlands Conservation Trust has called on South Africa to increase the extent of the ocean it protects to 10 percent to mitigate the risks of a biodiversity crisis and an economic catastrophe.
The trust said its Wildoceans programme, which focused on marine and coastal conservation and the sustainable development of the blue economy, cautioned that over-fishing, damaging industrial activities, habitat destruction, climate change and pollution were not letting up.
It said a biodiversity crisis, ocean collapse and a subsequent economic catastrophe could be the result of not protecting the ocean.
Ocean advocate Nomzamo Phungula said the ocean was being choked by rubbish – it was getting warmer and its fish were dying.
“Too many people are taking the ocean’s fish, oil and gas, and it needs more protection. The ocean is crying for help – our help,” said Phungula.
“The health of the ocean determines my future, and if we look after our ocean, it will look after us.”
Marine-protected areas (MPAs) were critical tools in the ocean protection toolbox, playing a vital role in maintaining biological diversity and ecosystem functioning by controlling harmful activities in sensitive habitats and by preserving from unsustainable development.
They were also a vital instrument to combat the effects of climate change.
Wildoceans said that less than 8 percent of the global ocean lay within MPAs, and only 2.7 percent was considered fully or highly protected, in sharp contrast to the 30 percent called by the scientific community by 2030.
It said the ocean was bearing the brunt of regulating the planet’s temperature, alongside its role as a key carbon sink, to ensure a habitable Earth.
Wildoceans said measures had to be taken now to help stop the rapid decline in the health of the ocean. It said these measures included the negotiation of a strong and robust high seas treaty that was in the best interests of the ocean and humanity, and the protection of at least 30 percent of the global ocean from destructive industrial and non-industrial activity, by 2030.
Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said litter, including plastic, had become of increasing global and national concern as a source of marine pollution.
She said there was sufficient evidence that a large percentage of pollution in the ocean originated from sources on land, primarily towns and cities located along rivers and waterways, which become pathways for litter into the marine environment.
Creecy said that as part of the Presidency’s employment stimulus initiative, the department was expanding the Source-to-Sea programme into 16 coastal districts with the target of creating about of 1 600 job opportunities. Planning was under way to start this initiative next month.
“It is essential that we manage our footprint and impact and put in place measures to protect our ocean and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity within the context of sustainable development,” said Creecy.