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12 Jul 2021

Marine Protected Areas highlighted in awareness campaign

(Berea Mail)

As Marine Protected Areas Day (MPA) on August 1 draws near, the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) report highlights key issues facing local marine life. The report, produced by WWF South Africa, is critical to the oceans’ health. According to the METT report, South Africa is recognised globally as a marine biodiversity hotspot, with close to 13 000 marine species.  Almost a third of all these species recorded are endemic to South Africa, ranking it the third highest in terms of marine species endemism in the world. Considering the wealth of ocean life found in these waters, effective management and protection of the MPAs is critical.

MPA Day will be commemorated for the first time this year to highlight the challenges facing MPAs, said Dr Judy Mann, Conservation Strategist at SAAMBR (South African Association for Marine Biological Research).

“This is one way to address the challenges outlined in the METT report, by creating greater public awareness of the role on MPAs in protecting valuable marine resources, and safeguarding the economic, cultural, educational and spiritual benefits of the ocean,” said Mann.

She said MPA Day will shine a spotlight on the tireless efforts of those entrusted with MPA protection.

“We will use this opportunity to celebrate the amazing work done by our marine rangers, individuals who play a vital role in the management of MPAs. It is absolutely critical that they are supported and provided with the necessary resources to enable them to do their work properly,” added Mann.

Dr Bruce Mann, a senior scientist at SAAMBR said the METT report, which evaluates the MPA management effectiveness, is crucial.

“Without such analysis, these important areas stand the risk of simply becoming ‘paper parks’ – simply a map on paper but with no real conservation value. Although there will always be certain biases and weaknesses associated with using this evaluation tool, it does serve to highlight the main challenges that MPA managers are facing,” he said.

“The idea to hold the first MPA Day in South Africa will contribute greatly to improving public awareness about the value of our MPAs and hopefully engender greater support for their existence and management,” he added.

The community can celebrate MPA Day by starting a conversation on social media about MPAs using the hashtags #MPADay, #LetsTalkMPAs,  #MPA and #MarineProtectedArea.