Algoa Bay marine protected area declared
Initiative from Coega to Cannon Rocks will benefit fish stocks, protect penguin population and boost tourism
A 1,200km² marine protected area has been declared in Algoa Bay in a move intended to benefit fish stocks, protect the endangered African penguin and boost tourism.
The Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area (MPA) has now been gazetted and it finalises an initial announcement by the department of environmental affairs six months ago.
It shores up the bulwark against perlemoen poaching and spotlights the bay’s unique mosaic of estuarine habitat, rocky and sandy shores and offshore islands.
Stretching from Coega to Cannon Rocks but divided into various permissible-use zones, it is one of 20 new MPAs promulgated by outgoing environment minister Nomvula Mokonyane at the end of last week.
SANParks national marine co-ordinator Dr Ane Oosthuizen said on Friday it had been a lengthy process but the final package offered great value.
“Together these new MPAs lift the country’s marine conservation total from 0.43% to 5%.
“The planning for some of them, like the Addo Elephant National Park MPA, started as far back as in 2006.
“Hundreds of planning and stakeholder meetings and negotiations with communities and industries such as oil and gas, mining, fisheries, and aquaculture took place.
“Planners and lawyers spent five years developing the shape, size and regulations for these MPAs, with many compromises on all sides.”
The Addo MPA would protect the high diversity of species in the area which included most kinds of marine invertebrates and seaweeds on the SA coast.
It would also support the recovery of kob, she said.
“It will protect important feeding areas for the 9,000 pairs of endangered African penguins breeding at St Croix Island and the 60,000 pairs of endangered Cape gannets breeding at Bird Island.
“Being close to the city, the Addo MPA facilitates naturebased tourism and serves as an outdoor classroom for educational activities.”
Oosthuizen agreed that the 20km protection zone around St Croix did not offer the penguins a complete buffer against seismic surveys for undersea petroleum deposits – which a study by NMU researcher Dr Lorien Pichegru has shown affects the feeding patterns of birds 100km away.
“We would have liked to extend it further but had to consider the operational capacity of the SANParks team that will patrol the MPA and the competing interests of offshore fishing.”
Regarding offshore ship refuelling and the huge threat posed by oil spills, the border of the MPA had been adjusted to excise the one anchorage close to St Croix, she said.
“We did not want to set a precedent for this kind of activity in an MPA.
“But bunkering is still taking place adjacent to this protected area, so it is not ideal.”
Louis van Aardt, co-owner of Pro Dive, Port Elizabeth’s biggest scuba diving business, said he was excited and pleased by the news that the Addo MPA had at last been gazetted.
“It’s good in terms of the limits it will put on fishing in the protected area, it’s good for the penguins and the sustainability of the bay.
“It will bring in more tourists because they want to dive in marine parks.”
Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa Algoa Bay branch chair Gary Koekemoer said the new Addo MPA held multiple benefits.
“It creates a natural reservoir for fish stocks to breed up, and it’s good for tourism.
“It adds to the existing Big Five two more flagships, the great white shark and the whales – Brydes, minke, humpback and southern right – to make up our unique Big Seven.
“It’s also in line with the Millenium Development Goals on sustainable use of the sea and the international call for 10% marine conservation by 2020.”
Oosthuizen said SANParks would together with the environment department be looking to compile an information brochure and to engage further with stakeholders to explain the zoning details.
The gazette notices and regulations as they stand are available under Separate Gazettes and 42478/9 at http://www.gpwonline.co.za/Gazettes/Pages/Published-Gazettes.aspx
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