Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day was once only a South African celebration. Now, it enjoys global recognition this year. “We are very excited about this year’s MPA Day which will be celebrated across the world,” says Dr Judy Mann, Executive of Strategic Projects of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, “a few other countries will be joining us as we work towards our dream of making MPA Day a truly international celebration.”
Why is MPA Day important?
In the same way that nature reserves protect land animals and plants, MPAs exist to protect the game reserves of the sea. Governments establish MPAs to protect marine ecosystems from evasive human activity, such as petroleum drilling. The country has 41 MPAs, making up 5.4% of the national ocean and coast. These safe spaces allow marine life to breed and mature into adulthood. And for humans, these spaces provide opportunities for resource recovery and counteract the effects of overfishing. An MPA may also be established to protect watery archaeological sites or shipwrecks.
Here are some of the other benefits:
- Creates marine wildlife economy for job creation
- Absorbs carbon dioxide, buffering climate change
- Beautiful spaces promote tourism
- Provides a solid foundation for natural world research and education
- Protect cultural heritage connected to the ocean
Only 1% of the world’s oceans are protected. And in many cases, the areas come under pressure from commercial fishing interests or those wanting to use the waters in ways that violate MPA rules. And while MPAs may seem like it negatively impacts economic activity, the fact is that well-planned areas benefit the long-term viability of the industry.
What does going global mean?
There are over 15,000 MPAs across the globe, with nearly 3,000 new ones in the implementation phase. Island nations lead the way, with over island territories in the US and UK making up over 80% of the global MPA population. However, smaller countries have come to the front, contributing a 11 times increase in MPAs.
The United Nations has set a target in which at least 25% of inshore waters and 20% of offshore waters will be protected in MPAs, with 15% of these waters being no-take zones. A further efforts is also being made to have MPAs cover a significant part of the country’s marine regions. Globally, the goal is set to protect 30% of the globe’s oceans by 2030.
How can you support?
Join a Twitter debate featuring MPA Day Alliance members. The chat will run between 18h00 and 19h00 tonight using #MPADay #LetsTalkMPAs.
After the discussions, jump into a watery webinar, Do Marine Protected Areas Work?, with topics and guests:
Survey fishing and its role in MPA management – Prof Colin Attwood (UCT)
Fish tagging and how it has been used in MPAs – Dr Bruce Mann (ORI)
Acoustic telemetry and its relevance to MPA research – Dr Ryan Daly (ORI)
Visual census and underwater videos and how they are used in MPA research – Dr Ant Bernard (SAIAB)
Register for the webinar here.