Tuesday, April 9, 2013

South Africa declares first offshore marine protected area

WATER and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has declared South Africa’s first offshore marine protected area, spanning 180,000km² around the Southern Ocean’s Prince Edward and Marion islands, the Department of Environmental Affairs said on Tuesday.

The area is of significant global importance as a breeding ground for fish and sea birds, but is not being patrolled by South Africa after the government’s mismanagement of patrol ships and their upkeep.

The declaration is in line with South Africa’s new National Protected Areas Expansion Strategy, which seeks to structure the way in which protected areas are declared to maximise conservation benefits, said Zolile Nqayi, the department’s oceans and coasts director.

The conservation zone includes a 12-nautical-mile "no take" zone, four restricted zones (where fishing is limited) and a controlled zone linking the four restricted zones. The controlled zone would be managed as a "low-impact zone", Mr Nqayi said.

World Wide Fund for Nature biodiversity unit head Deon Nel said the declaration of the protected area opened up opportunities for South Africa to put in place an effective management system — still being finalised — and to sort out the problems with patrolling.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which is responsible for the policing patrols, last week signed an emergency contract with Dutch shipyard Damen to bring South Africa’s fleet of six fisheries patrol and survey vessels into operation.

The department reclaimed the vessels from the navy after the latter failed to ensure they carried out their duties of patrolling and quantifying the sustainability of the country’s fishing stocks.

The navy took over the management of the fisheries fleet in April amid protests, after Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson halted Smit Amandla Marine’s R800m contract to manage and operate the seven vessels and gave it to black empowerment company Sekunjalo.This decision was later reversed and the ships handed to the navy.

Source: Business Day Live. Author: Sue Blaine

Image courtesy of Sir Hectimere via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)