South Africa increases marine protection by new representative network of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy

Introduction and background

 

In 2014, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, together with 16 other Cabinet colleagues, endorsed the plan to achieve, as part of Operation Phakisa: Ocean Economy, a viable marine protected area (MPA) representative network. The development of the Oceans Economy through Operation Phakisa is recognised widely as a bold, positive and proven way to proceed by pursuing both economic development and governance objectives at the same time. With the intensification of South Africa’s ocean economy, a sense of urgency to provide the necessary protection to a representative sample of marine ecosystems was eminent.

The oceans worldwide, including South Africa, are experiencing declines in health and resources caused by mounting environmental pressures such as pollution, climate change and high levels of exploitation of natural resources. Protection of a representative network of coastal and marine areas is considered one of the most effective and proven methods to turn around the decline in ocean health and resources. Thus, the proposal developed as part of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy, recommended an MPA representative network as a measure to resolve the problem. This was informed by both extensive scientific studies and considerations of other economic activities in the ocean environment. Other solutions such as compliance, enforcement and monitoring were considered to address the problem on a wider scale within the EEZ.

The proposal was supported by the Operation Phakisa initiative and thereafter gazetted by the Minister of Environmental Affairs for public comments. Further consultation and negotiations were held with relevant sector departments. Whilst most issues were resolved through modifications to the proposed network, certain competing interests between different users (primarily concerning the environment and mineral exploration and exploitation), remained. The network, together with its remaining issues, was escalated to Cabinet for their support regarding the declaration of the network of 20 MPAs. On the 24th of October 2018, Cabinet approved the network of 20 MPAs to be declared.

 

Aims and objectives 

 

  • To benefit fisheries stock, eco-tourism, medicinal resources and economic development through an increase in job opportunities and fisheries transformation.
  • To protect areas representative of all ecosystems, habitats and species naturally occurring in South Africa. Operation Phakisa MPAs will restore the already degraded marine environment and restore the replenished endangered marine species vulnerable to poaching.
  • To provide sufficient offshore protection, thus have positive benefits for offshore industries such as deep-sea trawling industry. 
  • To generate an increase in the protection of the marine environment that will, in turn, increase the protected areas estate. The increase in protection will potentially alleviate poverty in the fishing communities as there will be sustainable fish stocks in the marine ecosystems services.

 

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List of Operation Phakisa MPAs and their unique features

 

MPA Unique features

 

Orange Shelf Edge

  • Only un-trawled sandy shelf edge in region.
  • Feeding grounds for threatened seabirds and life history importance for sharks.
  • Hake fishery eco-certification which is important for economic benefits, food and job security

 

Namaqua Fossil Forest

  • Unique fossilised yellowwood forest with sensitive cold water corals and unprotected muds and sponge gardens.
  • Provides information about past climate.
  • Protects fishing grounds and hake nursery area from mining impacts.

 

Namaqua National Park

  • First protection for the Namaqua ecosystem types and a priority estuary.
  • Protects hake nursery habitat and supports recovery of West Coast Rock Lobster.
  • Important ecotourism area.

 

Childs Bank

  • Unique and sensitive seabed feature.
  • Only MPA with Lophelia pertusa corals.
  • Hake fishery eco-certification support (helps manage bycatch and habitat damage)

 

Benguela Muds

  • First protection of critically endangered mud habitat in good condition.
  • Important for eco-certification of the hake fishery.
  • The entire habitat type within the trawl footprint but this part lightly fished (less impact on fishers).

 

Cape Canyon

  • Threatened, unprotected canyon habitat vulnerable to trawling and mining impact.
  • Best option to protect canyon (less socio-economic cost than canyon off Cape Point).
  • Important feeding ground for whales and seabirds.
  • Important for sustainability of small pelagic and hake fisheries.
  • Eco-tourism potential e.g. whale watching

 

Robben Island

  • Breeding and feeding area for endangered seabirds.
  • Contributes to recovery of Abalone and West Coast Rock Lobster.
  • Important tourism area and for cultural heritage

 

Southeast Atlantic Seamounts

  • First protection of South Africa’s Seamount ecosystems.
  • Feeding grounds for critically endangered albatross.
  • Key area for climate adaptation and mitigation

 

Brown Bank Corals

  • Hake spawning area.
  • Cold water corals hold climate record and provide refuge for eggs and larvae.
  • Hake fishery eco-certification support contributes to food and job security

 

Agulhas Bank Complex

  • Fish spawning and important nursery area.
  • Spawning aggregations for red steenbras (world’s largest seabream found only in South Africa).
  • Ecotourism area with catch and release marlin fishing and shark diving.
  • Important area for small scale fisheries (accommodated in half of MPA) and recovery of linefish.
  • Protects parts of fishing grounds and nursery area from mining impacts and petroleum activities

 

Agulhas Muds

  • Critically endangered mud habitat in good condition (trawled and wellheads over most of this area).
  • Support for hake fishery eco-certification.

 

Southwest Indian Seamounts

  • Climate resilience MPA with 2000m depth range & coral habitats.
  • First protection for Indian Ocean Seamount
  • Nursery area for Makoshark

 

Agulhas Front

  • Core feeding ground for critically endangered leatherback turtles and seabirds.
  • High deepsea habitat diversity

 

Port Elizabeth Corals

  • Kingklip (valuable fisheries resource) gather to spawn in this MPA.
  • Unique geological feature (deepsea ridge) and coral ecosystems.
  • Sensitive area where seismic surveys, mining and trawling should not take place

 

Addo Elephant National Park

  • Important ecotourism node with close encounters with bottlenose dolphins; Brydes, Minke, Humpback and Right Whales and Orcas.
  • Endangered seabirds (St. Croix and Bird Island hold about 9 000 breeding pairs of endangered African penguins and Bird Island has approximately 60 000 breeding pairs of Cape gannets).
  • Algoa Bay has the highest percentage of endemic (found nowhere else on earth) marine species

 

Amathole Offshore

  • First protection for many unprotected ecosystem types trawled elsewhere in the Agulhas Ecoregion.
  • Threatened canyon in good condition i.e. the spectacular Gxulu canyon inshore of which the first coelacanth was caught.
  • Sensitive lace corals found only in the area.
  • Only MPA to include habitat of valuable South Coast Rock Lobster

 

Protea Banks

  • Important ecotourism area with sardine run and 7 shark species aggregate in this area.
  • 3 submarine canyons and unique deep reefs of Protea Banks.

 

Aliwal Shoal

  • Eco-tourism area with shark diving.
  • MPA brings new tourism development, links to Blue flag beaches, scuba operations and educational sites to amplify social benefits.
  • Spawning aggregations for seventy four and key area for geelbek and dusky kob.

 

uThukela

  • Critical Biodiversity Area - requires protection of threatened habitats (muds, gravels), processes (fresh water input) & species
  • Key area for linefish recovery, small scale fisheries, prawns and migrating whales.
  • Spawning and nursery areas for overexploited species e.g., squaretail kob.
  • Area supports bycatch management in crustacean trawl fishery and protects hammerhead sharks in their nursery area

 

iSimangaliso

  • Turtle feeding and nesting area and important for Coelacanth and their canyon habitats.
  • Alignment with World Heritage Site boundaries.
  • MPA supports prawn trawl bycatch management and protects slinger and rockcod aggregations to deliver fisheries benefits
 
 
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Documents for download

 

Gazetted regulations: [all available in PDF]

  1. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 777)
  2. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Amathole Offshore Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 778)
  3. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Agulhas Front Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 779)
  4. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Agulhas Bank Complex Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 780)
  5. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 781)
  6. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Benguela Muds Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 782)
  7. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Browns Bank Corals Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 783)
  8. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Cape Canyon Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 784)
  9. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Childs Bank Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 785)
  10. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Namaqua Fossil Forest Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 786)
  11. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Namaqua National Park Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 787)
  12. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of iSimangaliso Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 788)
  13. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Port Elizabeth Corals Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 789)
  14. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Uthukela Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 790)
  15. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Orange Shelf Edge Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 791)
  16. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Southeast Atlantic Seamounts Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 792)
  17. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Protea Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 793)
  18. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Robben Island Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 794)
  19. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of South West Indian Seamount Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 795)
  20. National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, (57 of 2004): Regulations: Management of Agulhas Muds Marine Protected Area (42479 – GN 796)

 

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