The oceans off South Africa are major attractions for tourists from all over the world. Preserving the natural ecology while also attracting tourists is a balancing act that needs to be carefully managed.
As part of an ongoing effort to effectively manage and conserve the ecology of South Africa, three new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within South African National Parks (SANParks) reserves have been gazetted by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The three areas are places that are popular among tourists and responsible for considerable revenue generation. Designating these three areas among 20 areas means they will get special attention in order to sustain and protect them.
The three new Marine Protected Areas in South Africa are the Addo Elephant National Park MPA, Robben Island MPA (to be managed by Table Mountain National Park), and the Namaqua National Park MPA. It has taken many years of hard work to get to this stage and efforts such as this are going a long way to preserve the biodiversity of South Africa and find the balance that attracts tourists to the country. This development takes South Africa’s Ocean Conservation footprint from under 0.5% to a full 5% and is considered to be a major global achievement.
Many tourists take the wildlife and national parks of South Africa for granted. However, behind the scenes, there is a lot of activity that has to take place to maintain these places that are a bucket list item for so many people. The planning of the new Marine Protected Areas started around 2006 with Addo Elephant National Park requiring more planning than most. Covering 1200 square kilometres the Addo Elephant Park is a third of the size of the Kruger Nation Park and is a major source of income for the Eastern Cape Economy. The inclusion as a Marine Protected Area is both good for the environment and good for local tourism-related industries.
The purpose of Marine Protected Areas is to improve the conservation of South Africa’s oceans, islands and coastal habitats. Within these designated zones, various threatened species such as penguins are protected. Furthermore, overexploited fish stocks can begin to be replenished with species such as various types of line fish, abalone and rock lobster gaining increased protection. In addition to this, services to support the ecosystems will be secured and managed to balance people and nature. Services such as recreational activities, tourism and education will be encouraged along with the introduction and control of subsistence, recreational and commercial fishing in the regions.
Climate change is something affecting all industries and economies around the world and the development of Marine Protected Areas is one of the most visible steps South Africa is taking in line with this.
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The oceans around Cape Town are heavily polluted with a variety of chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are now being found in the flesh of fish being caught. Fish found in waters off Kalk Bay have been found to contain everything from antibiotics and pain killers to cleaning chemicals and other toxic substances with at least 15 different chemical compounds being found in alarming numbers.
It is always good news to hear about declining levels of poaching of any kind. For decades the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique was one of the top spots for illegal elephant ivory poaching. We are elated to report the good news that this once “ivory factory” has not seen a single elephant killed since 2018.
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