Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, yet despite the majority holdings, only roughly 4% of this area is under formal protection. Land makes up 29% of the Earth’s surface and of this area 15% is under formal protection. We are at a crucial time in man’s history, where much of our natural areas have been colonized, or are in the process of being colonized. Even remote natural areas of land and sea are showing the effects of human activities. Marine and coastal ecosystems are especially under pressure from the effects of human activities. It is important that we protect these areas, as they provide us with many important ecosystem functions, perhaps the most obvious of these being provision of food. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an avenue of increase the sea area under formal protection for both natural and cultural resources. MPAs differ in the extent of the protection offered, some having total exclusion of all human activities, while others have seasonal or activity-based limitations.
South Africa has 24 Marine Protected Areas, one of which is in Plettenberg Bay which most locals may know about – Robberg Nature Reserve. Robberg MPA was declared in 1998 and is administered by CapeNature. The MPA extends for 1 nautical mile from the coastline of Robberg Nature Reserve and this is estimated to be about 9.5km of coastline, of which only 1km is sandy while the rest is rocky. Robberg MPA encompasses offshore reefs which has a rich diversity of species, and are an important habitat for commercially valuable and endemic fish species. Robberg MPA also encompasses soft sediment areas which, although low in species diversity, are important habitat for other fish species. A number of whale and dolphin species have been seen in these waters, along with some species of globally threatened turtle species. The coastline of Robberg is also home to a large breeding colony of Cape Fur Seals, African Black Oystercatchers, White-breasted Cormorants, Cape Cormorants, and Kelp Gulls. The diversity of species on land and in the water is just spectacular and it is well worth a visit to Robberg Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area.
Written by: Minke Witteveen
For further reading:
- Cape Nature. 2013. Marine Protected Areas. Accessed: 2016-06-19. URL: http://www.capenature.co.za/care-for-nature/conservation-in-action/marine-protected-areas/
- Cape Nature. 2013. Robberg Nature Reserve. Accessed: 2016-06-20. URL: http://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/robberg-nature-reserve/
- Unknown. Marine Protected Areas. Accessed: 2016-06-19. URL: http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/marine2/oceanstewardship/protected_areas/