There’s no doubt that all forms of life need to be protected and sustainably managed to ensure its perseverance.
Therefore, when it was revealed that only 0.4% of South Africa’s ocean regions are currently being protected, there was great cause for concern.
Following a World Oceans Day event hosted by Wildoceans and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) on 8 June at Ushaka Marine World, a coalition of organisations was launched with the aim of advancing greater protection of South Africa’s oceans.
This new alliance of national and international organisations aims to build support for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by creating awareness of its value.
Dr Jean Harris of Wildoceans says that MPAs provide “ecosystem services, ocean risk mitigation, food security, ecotourism benefits, moderation of climate change, and improving resilience to impacts of other global stressors”.
Harris adds that the coalition hopes “to gain strategic wins for marine conservation in African waters that will catalyse action across the region.”
The coalition is funded by Oceans 5, Ocean Unite, WWF-SA, The Green Connection, Centre for Environmental Rights and the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR).
Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Deputy Director General Judy Beaumont says that the DEA supports the coalition.
“We appreciate any work being done that profiles the many social, economic and environmental benefits of a dynamic and relevant MPA network. This communication is key to bridging the gaps between government departments, as well as civil society and conservation entities,” says Beaumont.
At least 30% of our oceans need to be protected
According to the new coalition’s #OnlyThisMuch campaign, we need to protect at least 30% of our oceans for long-term sustainable use.
The campaign has a goal of achieving 5% protection of South Africa’s oceans within MPAs by 2019, and 10% by 2020.
Wildoceans’ Lauren van Nijkerk says that the aim is to get African states to support a global target of 30% protection by 2030.
DEA’s Beaumont says that “The drive to achieve a 10% (and more) MPA target aligns with South Africa’s National Development Plan outcomes and international commitments. We are all connected to the ocean in some way and therefore all have a responsibility to protect and preserve our oceans for future generations.”
At the launch of the Only This Much campaign, aquarium displays were covered up with black cloth and revealed to illustrate the limited ocean protection we currently have in South Africa, and what the potential of the ocean is if that protection is expanded.
A global challenge
Alex Benkenstein of SAIIA, says that the fact that ocean protection is part of the Sustainable Development Goals highlights the global nature of the challenges and opportunities related to the ocean.
“For this reason, our Institute seeks to promote cooperative responses towards developing a truly sustainable Blue Economy, and a strong MPA network, both within South Africa and beyond our borders, is an essential component of that,” says Benkenstein.
John Duncan, Senior Manager of the Marine Programme at WWF SA says that healthy oceans support an ocean economy, and therefore “We urgently need to scale up our MPA network to secure the underlying marine ecosystems which underpin economically and ecologically sustainable development.”
Judy Mann, Conservation Strategist at SAAMBR, adds that only by working together will we be able to address the challenges facing our oceans.
Safeguarding natural heritage & marine economy
Saul Roux, Legal Campaigner at the Centre for Environmental Rights, says that MPAs will safeguard our natural heritage and the ecosystems that support marine economy.
“More than two years ago the Minister of Environmental Affairs published notices and regulations, for public comment; for an ecologically representative network of 22 marine protected areas. These should be declared as a matter of urgency,” says Roux.
“This will ensure South Africa is on track to meet our international obligations and will contribute to the realisation of our Constitutional right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Green Connections’ Liz McDaid says that the organisation is part of the campaign to ensure that oceans are protected to provide livelihoods for future generations. “We support at least 30% MPA goal – and all of South Africa’s affected stakeholders must be involved in such decisions,” adds McDaid.
Karen Sack, Managing Director of Ocean Unite, adds that “Marine Reserves are the insurance policies we need to buy for our Ocean planet” to help build resilience to climate change, bring back marine life, secure food, water, and air supplies, and provide job security.
She says that SA’s President and Cabinet must meet to exceed South Africa’s international commitments to protect at least 10% of waters by 2020, to safeguard marine life for the benefit of all South Africans.
How to start protecting our oceans
- Join the “Only This Much” campaign and spread awareness.
- Make ethical and sustainable seafood choices – follow WWF SASSI to check.
- Stop buying and using plastic products. Reuse old plastic bags when shopping and invest in reusable straws.
- Don’t buy items that exploit marine life.
- Get involved in a beach clean-up, and pick up litter whenever you see any along the coast.
- Visit Aquariums to increase your love and knowledge of marine life.
By Kavitha Pillay. Source: Traveller24