How will MPA be patrolled?
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Cape Town - A memorandum of understanding is being drafted to formalise an agreement between two government departments over management of the country’s marine environment.
This should help resolve major concerns about how South Africa will enforce conservation measures in the massive 180 000km2 Prince Edward Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) around its far-flung island territory deep in the Southern Ocean.
This MPA, the country’s first offshore protected area and the seventh-largest of its kind in the world, has been gazetted by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa after a nine-year negotiation and drafting process.
Last week, conservation group WWF-SA presented Molewa with its symbolic Gift to the Earth award for the government’s declaration of the MPA. The award, only the fourth of its kind, is “a public celebration by WWF of a conservation action by a government, company, organisation or individual which is a demonstration of environmental leadership and a globally significant contribution to the protection of the living world”.
While environmentalists welcomed the declaration of the new MPA, about 2 000km south-east of Cape Town, they also expressed concern about how it would be patrolled, given the year-long farce over the management of the country’s fisheries protection and research fleet that is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
One of the vessels is the offshore patrol vessel Sarah Baartman that has been out of commission for a year.
Particularly during the late 1990s, poaching around the Prince Edward Islands dramatically reduced the commercially valuable Patagonian toothfish stocks, and longline fisheries killed tens of thousands of seabirds like albatrosses and petrels.
Asked after the award presentation about patrolling the new MPA, Molewa said the Sarah Baartman was being refurbished and would come back under her department’s jurisdiction – “and we’re going to use it”.
Also, “long talks” between her department and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had managed to resolve the issue of how to apply the Marine Living Resources Act that governs exploitation and conservation of the marine environment, resulting in some conflict between the two departments’ mandates.
“We have agreed that it (the act) will still stay with the Department of Environmental Affairs – the main protection aspects and environmental and ocean aspects – and then the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will do fisheries and fishing.
“Based on this agreement that spells out clearly who has what roles, we now have a memorandum of understanding that is under draft right now. There is no hassle, we are all agreeing and we are working together.”
Funding to operate the Sarah Baartman had always been “a small challenge” and this aspect still needed to be resolved, Molewa added.
“(But) when you have an agreement and harmony, it’s not a difficult thing to go together to Treasury.” - Cape Argus