Cape Town – Activists have marked South Africa’s first ever day to raise awareness of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) through several activities to educate the public about the protected areas around the country’s coastline. The activities included an MPA virtual tour and webinar, as well as a photographic competition with prizes from supporting organisations, and concluded with an interactive Twitter chat by the members of the MPA Day Alliance.
The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), the Two Oceans Aquarium Trust, Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Flow Communications, Olivia Jones Communications and WildOceans all formed part of the MPA Day Alliance that made yesterday’s celebrations possible.
The MPA webinar took viewers on a virtual tour to Table Mountain, Dyer Island, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, uThukela and De Hoop to learn about their history and ecosystems as well as a special performance by world-renowned storyteller Dr Gcina Mhlophe and her daughter, Khwezi Becker.
Two Oceans Aquarium spokesperson Renée Leeuwner said The Two Oceans Aquarium decided to join the MPA Alliance to raise awareness for these areas because although most South Africans understand what national parks do for terrestrial fauna and flora, few were aware of what MPAs were all about and their benefits.
“MPAs currently only make up 5% of the South African coastline and, unlike terrestrial protected areas, MPAs have no gates or fences to demarcate and protect the areas. Exploitation of the resources in these MPAs can happen very easily by fishing vessels as well as unlawful resource harvesting,” said Leeuwner.
Reef life at Table Mountain National Parks Marine Protected Areas. | Alison Kock
These were just a few of the challenges faced by MPAs that showed why it was important to increase awareness and protection of South Africa’s ocean ecosystems.
Dyer Island Conservation Trust spokesperson Brenda Walters said: “Our MPAs help protect different habitats such as coral and rocky reefs, kelp forests, rocky and sandy shores, estuaries and underwater canyons.
“The pristine quality of these conservation areas gives an idea of what nature looks like when not impacted by humans. This forms a solid foundation for research into the natural world and necessary conservation techniques.”
SAAMBR conservation strategist Dr Judy Mann-Lang said: “I’m a scientist and I knew that to make MPA Day work I had to call on competent people. Flow chief executive officer Tara Turkington is my main go-to as a communications and marketing expert. She has been an incredible and steady guide and helped us improve what we do. We could not have put this all together without Flow.”