For many South Africans, the sea is a place of cleansing and spiritual renewal. It also provides an essential fish habitat Photo: Kerry Sink
For many South Africans, the sea is a place of cleansing and spiritual renewal. It also provides an essential fish habitat Photo: Kerry Sink
The critically endangered Leatherback turtles lay eggs seasonally on iSimangaliso’s shores.
Photo: Peter Timm
The critically endangered Leatherback turtles lay eggs seasonally on iSimangaliso’s shores. Photo: Peter Timm
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The ancient coelacanth fish is thriving in small protected pockets of deep submarine canyons off Sodwana Bay in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Photo
Peter Timm
unnamed24 The ancient coelacanth fish is thriving in small protected pockets of deep submarine canyons off Sodwana Bay in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Photo Peter Timm

Durban - The ancient coelacanth, leatherback turtles, undersea mountains and submarine canyons - all form part of the new extended marine protected areas (MPAs) off the South African coastline.

Twenty new MPAs, recently been announced by the Department of Environmental Affairs, will advance ocean protection by approximately 50 000 square kilometres and increase protection of oceans around South Africa from 0.4 to 5%.

Following on last week’s announcement by acting minister of environmental affairs, Derek Hanekom who said the 20 new MPAs will “considerably advance South Africa’s efforts to protect our ocean heritage”, Isimangaliso Wetland Park in northern KZN has welcomed the move, confirming their protected area will now become the biggest in the SA network.

Isimangaliso is already part of Africa’s longest transfrontier MPA with Mozambique and is incorporated as one of UNESCO’s 49 global marine World Heritage Sites.

Dr Kerry Sink of the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) - one of the lead drivers of this initiative - said: “This is vitally important for the protection of deep water ecosystem, but also our critically endangered Leatherback turtles and coelacanths which need offshore protection to secure their habitats and foraging areas.”

She added that the new protection will advance ecosystem protection for offshore ecosystems and provide first protection to several threatened and fragile ecosystems types.

The network also includes Childs Bank, a unique underwater feature with deep water corals on its steep slopes, first protection of undersea mountains in the Indian and Atlantic, submarine canyons including SA’s Grand Canyon off Saldanha Bay, rare mud habitats and key areas for recovery of linefish.

Independent on Saturday