The mission of the South African MPA Forum is to work with all the role players in the SA MPA sector to maintain and improve communication, management and training of staff in all our MPAs. The Forum will identify priority projects that require implementation by the MPA Coordinator, who will integrate these projects into his annual work plan for project management to completion and report back at the next MPA Forum Event.
The Forum has 3 primary objectives:
- Improve MPA management effectiveness and capacity development
- Foster collaboration and information sharing between MPA stakeholders in Southern Africa
- The implementation of an integrated, multi-stakeholder approach to MPA Governance in Southern Africa
Through its secretariat and members, the Forum strives to bring together key role players in the South African MPA sector from Government, Management Agencies, Research Organizations and Academia, NGO’s, Coastal Communities and others to improve coordination between stakeholders and support capacity development across the sector.
Although oceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and play a critical role in regulating our climate and providing food resources, less than 2.3% are formally protected , compared to some 10% of our terrestrial areas.
Whilst many marine areas previously enjoyed de facto protection due to their remoteness, advancing technology and progressive over-exploitation of marine resources has led to the rapid expansion of the human footprint on our oceans and the resultant need for more formal protection measures.
Many marine industries are also hugely wasteful and have widespread ecosystem impacts beyond their target resource.
Today, some 90% of the world’s commercial fish stocks are considered either fully- or overexploited. Simultaneously, coastal environments are facing related challenges as growing coastal populations have led to increased development pressures, habitat destruction, pollution and coastal erosion – all of which pose a growing threat to marine biodiversity.
In South Africa fishing is one of the greatest threats to marine biodiversity with many commercial line fish species considered over-exploited and, in some cases, even collapsed. Coastal development is also placing increasing pressure on marine biodiversity, while other threats include reduced freshwater flows into the marine environment, pollution, alien invasive species and climate change.
In the face of these challenges, global recognition of the importance of proper marine resource management is growing with South Africa at the forefront of developing long-term strategies in this regard. The implementation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is one that has been employed worldwide, not only to address many of the threats to marine and coastal ecosystems, but also to meet a wide range of human needs- education, fisheries management, recreation, income generation and research, among others.