The Department of Environmental Affairs celebrates World Wildlife Day with a focus on marine wildlife
03 March 2019
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has partnered with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to celebrate World Wildlife Day with the theme “Life Below Water: For People for Planet”.
This is the first World Wildlife Day to focus on life below water. It is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the breath-taking diversity of marine life, the crucial importance of marine species to human development, and how we can make sure it will continue to provide these services for future generations.
The ocean contains nearly 200 000 identified species, but actual numbers may be in the millions. According to UN, the global market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at US$3 trillion per year, about 5% of global GDP.
As part of South Africa’s efforts to protect the ocean space and the marine life in it, the Department is in the process of gazetting a network of 20 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that are representative of South Africa’s rich coastal and ocean biodiversity. Cabinet approved the network of 20 new MPAs in October 2018 and this is 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.
This will increase the ocean protection within the South African Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to 5%. MPAS provide some protection and stability to important habitats, and provide a range of advantages for the different economic sectors. MPAs also contribute to growing South Africa’s marine eco-tourism sector by providing well-managed natural habitat for marine wildlife such as whales, sharks, seals, dolphins, turtles and seabirds for international and South Africans alike to experience.
South Africa is also mindful of its longer term commitments to the protection of marine biodiversity, including meeting the 2020 Global Target in the Decadal Plan of the United Nations Convention of Biodiversity (CBD), which stands at 10%.
The United Nations World Wildlife Day is the global celebration of the many beautiful and varied forms of wild animals and plants on our planet, as well as an occasion to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits they provide to people and the urgent need to reduce the threats facing them.
On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March, the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.
WWD 2019 is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign that seeks to four of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:
- Goal 4: Quality Education, Ensure inclusive and equitable quality environmental education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
- Goal 13: Improving Ecosystems and protecting the Biodiversity.
- Goal 14: Life below water, which focuses on marine species, and will be an opportunity to highlight the critical issues and values of marine wildlife to our everyday lives.
- Goal 15: Life on Land, human life depends on the earth as much as the ocean for our sustenance and livelihoods.
Another effort that the DEA is making to protect marine wildlife is by combatting marine litter which is one of the biggest threats to the livelihood of marine wildlife. Marine litter, including plastic litter, has become a matter of increasing global and national concern as a source of marine pollution.
South Africa has shown commitment to addressing the marine litter and micro-plastics challenge through several forums.
- In July 2017, the G20 group of countries, of which South Africa is a member, adopted an Action Plan on Marine Litter.
- In December 2017, at the margins of the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly South Africa endorsed the UN’s Clean Seas Campaign, which exists as a platform for governments to engage the general public, civil society and the private sector to find solutions to the plastic litter challenge.
World Wildlife Day celebrations take place as South Africa prepares to launch the Presidential initiative, Good Green Deeds campaign, which seeks to prioritise “Litter free and no dumping behaviour.” This will help ensure better environmental quality for all our environment, and not only protected areas.
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