Cape Town - Following the success of the first Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day, celebrated last year on August 1, numerous environmental and conservation groups were stressing the importance of MPAs in South Africa and their role in protecting ocean ecosystems while also raising awareness for these ecosystems in recognition of MPA Day today.
The organisations involved in MPA Day were the SA Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), Two Oceans Aquarium, Flow Communications, Olivia Jones Communications and WildOceans, along with WWF South Africa and WWF South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi).
Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation strategic projects executive Judy Mann said last year’s success led the national event to become a global event this year with various activities being hosted to create awareness.
Mann said some of this year’s MPA Day activities included an MPA Day Essay and Art Competition for children run by the Youth4MPAs collective, a photo competition with new categories for amateur and professional photographers as well as a webinar tonight with five leading South African marine scientists to share the latest research on MPAs.
On Saturday, members of the public celebrated local MPAs in Cape Town by participating in a natural treasure hunt at the Dalebrook tidal pools in the Table Mountain National Park MPA, where they gathered to spot the abundant natural wildlife along the rocky shoreline.
Two Oceans Aquarium spokesperson Renée Leeuwner said: “Our ocean is currently facing a humanmade crisis. Pollution, climate change, over-fishing and over-exploitation of marine resources are all contributing to the suffering that the blue heart of our planet is currently subjected to.
“By protecting the ocean and maintaining a healthy marine environment (as intended through MPAs) we are essentially ensuring our survival on this planet.”
A report released by WWF South Africa, the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (Mett) report, detailed a method to increase the effectiveness of protected area management after growing concern that protected areas were not achieving their objectives.
This tool was developed by Sue Stolton, Marc Hockings, Nigel Dudley, Kathy MacKinnon, Tony Whitten and Fiona Leverington.
They highlighted that South Africa’s 27 coastal and island MPAs were facing five major challenges, including insufficient funding, staffing and resources; improved monitoring to track MPA management; insufficient effective law enforcement; improved management of cultural heritage at MPAs; and not enough public awareness of MPAs and their role in the environment and value to local communities.