Coast KZN

19 Jun 2019

WILDOCEANS celebrates international support for marine conservation

(South Coast Herald) Picture: Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) returning to the sea after nesting (laying eggs). iSimangaliso Wetland Park (Greater St Lucia Wetland Park). KwaZulu Natal. South Africa

The ocean, earth’s largest habitat, covers 70 percent of the planet’s surface and generates 50 percent of our oxygen. The conservation of such a habitat is crucial.

WILDOCEANS, a programme of the WILDTRUST, is very excited to announce that the Blue Action Fund (BAF) have invested in a four-year project set to be carried out by WILDOCEANS and partners, supporting marine conservation and livelihoods in South Africa and Mozambique. BAF, based in Germany, is a conservation trust fund dedicated to supporting Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and coastal waters of Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Protection of the oceans in the African region is lagging far behind most other parts of the world both in terms of contributing to global targets for the percentage within MPAs, as well as the effectiveness of management of these areas. Only 2.3 percent of Mozambique’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is formally protected in gazetted legislation, and South Africa now has five percent of its EEZ protected, up from 0.4 percent.

Both countries are working to expand marine spatial protection and to improve the management effectiveness of their MPA networks under extremely tough capacity limits, budget constraints and in the face of significant economic interest in their ocean resources. Both countries are currently facing escalating marine hydrocarbon and mineral resources extractive pressure, led by large international companies that promise sustainable development and significant investment into developing country’s economies.

These new uses of the ocean space come on the heels of foreign industrial fishing, including tuna fishing and illegal fisheries Compounding existing over-fishing challenges and significant climate change impacts such as drought and disasters caused by extreme weather events, these stressors threaten to further compromise food security and resilience in the region.

This initiative will support a regional network of MPAs with focused efforts on two important and ecologically connected marine biodiversity hotspots: the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site in South Africa and the Vamizi-Quifuki-Metundo Island Complex in Mozambique.

“This project comes at a very important time for both countries, when threats to our ocean spaces are at a peak and there are not enough mechanisms in place to ensure their protection. There is a rising global voice for ocean protection and we are really appreciative that the Blue Action Fund recognises the need for investment in the South West Indian Ocean region,” said Dr Jean Harris, executive director of WILDOCEANS.

The project aims to achieve increased protection and strengthened management of these sites, while improving the livelihoods of adjacent communities and the sustainability of fisheries. “We are very proud to be working with Africa Foundation through their Oceans without Borders collaboration with and Beyond, with Universidade Lúrio in Mozambique, and in South Africa with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and on this important project”, said Harris.”

Executive Director of the Blue Action Fund, Markus Knigge said that millions of people, including vulnerable communities in coastal areas, rely on healthy oceans.

“We are looking forward to seeing WILDOCEANS and its partners to support the establishment and management of a representative and effective regional network of connected MPA’s, conserving marine ecosystems and supporting sustainable livelihoods depending on them.”

South Africa is privileged to be the custodians of one of the longest coastlines in the world. WILDOCEANS values the assistance from the Blue Action Fund and its support for the many marine conservation efforts being made all over the world.