South Africa announces new Marine Protected Area Network over two and a half times the size of the Kruger National Park

Yesterday, the Department of Environmental Affairs announced that Cabinet approved a network of 20 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that are representative of South Africa’s rich coastal and ocean biodiversity. This will increase protection of the ocean around South Africa from 0.4 to 5%. The new areas will advance ocean protection by approximately 50 000 km2, an area two and half times the size of the Kruger National Park.

Mr Derek Hanekom, the Acting Minister of Environmental Affairs said “This network of 20 MPAs, approved by Cabinet on Wednesday, 24 October 2018, will considerably advance South Africa’s efforts to protect our ocean heritage for future generations. They will contribute to fisheries sustainability, advance marine ecotourism, and will help maintain resilience in ecosystems that are under stress from climate change”.

The new network will advance ecosystem protection for offshore ecosystems and provide the first protection to several threatened and fragile ecosystem types. The network includes Childs Bank, a unique underwater feature with deep water corals on its sleep slopes, first protection of undersea mountains in the Indian and Atlantic, submarine canyons including South Africa’s Grand Canyon off Saldahna Bay, rare mud habitats and key areas for recovery of linefish.

Support for the Marine Protected Area components of the Namaqua and Addo Elephant National Parks are also welcomed with decades of work behind the establishment of these areas.

The network is based on collaborative science with input from many institutions. SANBI scientist Dr Kerry Sink led the 5 year Offshore Marine Protected Area Project which was a key input into this work and was the lead of the Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy Marine Protected Area technical team who used advanced planning and hundreds of map layers to align protection and ocean economy goals.

SANBI initiated work on expansion of Marine Protected Areas in 2006 after the 2004 National Biodiversity Assessment showed that offshore ecosystems are the least protected ecosystem types across all realms in the country.

SANBI also developed co-operative research projects with industry to increase our marine biodiversity knowledge base and established the Offshore Environment Forum in 2010 to facilitate information sharing with multiple sectors. Stakeholder engagement has been a key aspect of the development of the network.

Explore the 20 new Marine Protected Areas on the new website launched by SANBI in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Science and Technology and other partners.

Celebrate this milestone in African ocean protection by watching and sharing our short film below:

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