Sunday, 1 August marked the first annual Marine Protected Area (MPA) Day celebration with a series of well-coordinated events reaching more than a million people across the globe. Organised by an alliance of ocean-conservation partners, MPA Day highlighted the value of these unique areas, not only to the ecosystem, but to the surrounding communities as well.
“Leading the MPA Day Alliance has been the most rewarding thing that I have done for many years,” said Dr Judy Mann, Conservation Strategist at SAAMBR (South African Association for Marine Biological Research).
“Our weekly meetings were filled with lively discussions and great ideas that were translated into actions through our incredible team. Despite working without a budget, everyone was committed to achieving the goal of raising South Africans awareness of MPAs. Through these activities, we exceeded my greatest hopes for the day - and 2021 was just the start. I’d like to extend an enormous heartfelt ‘thank-you’ to the team.”
What’s the role of MPAs?
South Africa has 41 MPAs which make up only 5.4% of the ocean and coast around our beautiful country. In the same way that nature and game reserves protect the terrestrial plants and animals, MPAs serve to protect the ocean’s inhabitants, several which are threatened with extinction.
MPAs play a significant role in the protection of spawning and nursery areas that allow for resource recovery to counteract rampant overfishing. They provide safe havens for marine life to thrive, maturing into adulthood.
The result of well-managed MPAs is valuable support for adjacent fisheries and assistance in job creation; the facilitation of healthy marine animals; improved ecological resilience to climate change; and the provision of vital information that contributes towards research.
However, this can only be achieved if there’s more awareness about MPAs and the vital role they play. To accomplish this, the MPA Alliance - including SAAMBR, Two Oceans Aquarium, Flow Communications, Olivia Jones Communications, Dyer Island Conservation Trust and WILDOCEANS (a programme of the WILDTRUST) – established MPA Day which consisted of a series of enlightening events.
What happened on MPA Day?
Around 200 people tuned into the MPA Day webinar, with live crossings to four of South Africa’s MPAs. Conservationists discussed the MPA ecosystems, as well as the historical and traditional significance of the areas. Several of the MPAs – including Aliwal Shoal on the KZN South Coast - also hosted various events and activities for local visitors, both new and returning.
uShaka Marine World in Durban and Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town put on some magnificent displays, clothing company AQTIVwear sponsored a clean-up of Mouille Point in the Table Mountain MPA and schools were not forgotten with great interactive lessons with Sodwana Bay Primary pupils. The MPA Day was brought to a close with an interactive Twitter chat (@MPAsSA1) hosted by members of the MPA Day Alliance, with the generous support from a number of important influencers. Using this platform, they discussed MPAs and answered fun questions about the significance of these important ocean ‘game reserves’.
The MPA Day fun continues
To capture the moment, a photography competition is running with the submission deadline extended to 31 August 2021, and the winners will be announced on 24 September, 2021.
The competition is open to photographers of all ages and skill levels looking to showcase their talent and win some amazing prizes, including entrance tickets to various attractions, specialist tours, cruises, books and an A1 acrylic print from ORMS.
Photographs can be taken in any of the South African MPAs and be submitted in three categories (three photos permitted per category):
1. Scenery: Photos of sunrises, sunsets or other scenic shots, above or below the water.
2. Creatures: Photos of marine and estuary wildlife, big or small, above or below the water.
3. Activities: Photos of friends and family enjoying activities in MPAs such as hiking, surfing, diving and snorkelling (permission must be granted).
Submit entries by clicking on this form.
The Youth4MPAs - in partnership with WILDOCEANS, supported by World Surf League PURE, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Oceans 5 - are bringing together African youth from all walks of life to engage with global marine experts in the first-ever virtual African Youth Summit on 19 and 20 August. The summit seeks to mobilise African youth by encouraging them to take ownership of the global 30x30 MPA target with an African perspective. Register now at www.africanyouthsummit.com.
“MPA Day was really just a way to kickstart an ongoing awareness drive that fosters a lifelong appreciation for our oceans,” said Helen Lockhart, Communications & Sustainability Manager at Two Oceans Aquarium.
“The reality is, without our contribution towards ocean conservation, the majority of marine life faces an uncertain future. And without a healthy marine ecosystem, we too face an uncertain future. MPA Day comes at a critical time for future generations and we look forward to more proactive engagements like this!”
For more information about South Africa’s MPAs, visit https://www.marineprotectedareas.org.za/