Marine Protected Areas

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What’s a marine protected area (MPA)? Are all MPA’s the same? Do they actually work?

The definition of a protected area from IUCN is: ‘a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values’. A marine protected area is a part of the ocean that has restrictions on what humans can do in the area to protect the environment. The protection is either an extension of a land based protected area or a complete protection for a part of the ocean.

The current amount of ocean that has a protection is about 2%. This is much less then on land (12%) and with the major part of our world covered by ocean (71%), we are not protecting enough of it.

All MPA’s are not the same. The level of protection varies a lot between areas. Some MPA’s you can still be allowed to fish in under restrictions, in others you can only visit for research studies, and the last level not even researches can go. Around Plettenberg Bay we have 2 different MPA’s. The one closest to us is the Robberg MPA in the west and the Tsitsikamma in the east. In the Robberg MPA it is allowed to fish from the rocks, swim with the seals and watch dolphins, while fishing or watching whales from boats are not allowed. The Tsitsikamma MPA is the oldest marine protected area in South Africa. It extends 3 km out from shore and is a no-go-zone for boat activity. The only boats that can be in the Tsitsikamma MPA are the ones with special licenses, like researchers. You can swim in the Nature reserve but no fishing is allowed from the rocks. This two MPA’s are great for fishing in the Plettenberg Bay area because of the spill-over effect that happens. Tsitsikamma have 9 of the 14 most popular fish species to catch in their MPA. When they get up in numbers they will migrate out of the protected areas and give a better size of fish to catch.

It has been seen all over the world that marine protected areas are working. When creating a MPA where the marine animals can recover, the surrounding areas get more fish to collect. It is important to get more MPA’s, because the current 2% is not helping the total fish stock. To create more and larger MPA’s is needed and to make them similar to the Great Barrier Reef MPA seems to be the best way. Here you will find no-go-zones surrounded with the research areas and around that are the small fishing areas where you can fish with certain tools. The spill-over effect has been seen and even though fishermen complain they can see that they have larger catches now than before.

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