On the 17th of July 2012, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s (SANBI’s) Marine Programme invited marine and coastal management stakeholders to participate in a workshop discussion session regarding the implementation of a Namaqualand Marine Protected Area (MPA).
The workshop was held at the Okiep Country Hotel and was attended by a mixed group of participants consisting of researchers, scientists, government officials, community groups, conservation agencies and commercial industry stakeholders. The aims of the workshop were to advance the planning of a proposed Namaqualand MPA, engage relevant stakeholders, review planning inputs and identify concerns and opportunities regarding the implementation of a Namaqualand MPA.
Workshop proceedings of the day were facilitated by DEA Director of Coastal and Biodiversity Conservation Xola Mkefe, SANBI Marine Programme Manager Dr. Kerry Sink, SANBI Marine Progarmme Project Officer Prideel Majiedt, and Peter Chadwick from the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA).
There are two principle reasons for MPAs: to protect habitat and biodiversity, and to help maintain viable fisheries. MPAs are essential to conserve the biodiversity of the oceans and to maintain productivity. Presently the Northern Cape is the only coastal province in South Africa that is without a proclaimed MPA.
Majiedt delivered a presentation on the importance of a proposed Namaqualand MPA, whilst Dr. Sink presented marine and coastal data. SKEP Namakwa Coordinator Abe Koopman, and Namaqua National Park Manager Bernard van Lente spoke about current community engagements and projects in Namaqualand.
Discussions at the workshop highlighted that the marine habitats of the Namaqualand Coast of South Africa supports the biodiversity rich and economically important marine species that need to be protected and would provide valuable sites for research.
The National Spatial Biodiversity Assessment (NSBA) 2004 assessed the protection levels of 34 broad marine biozones, which highlighted that offshore ecosystems and the Namaqua coast were almost completely unprotected. The progress made in mapping and classifying marine and coastal ecosystem types since 2004 means that it is now much easier to make a meaningful assessment of the protection levels of the 136 marine and coastal habitat types.
Intact coastal habitats are critical in climate change and adaptation. Marine and coastal biodiversity assets support human wellbeing. We depend on the seas, and therefore marine and coastal ecosystems are essential for many aspects of social and economic development. Due to this, some marine and coastal ecosystems are under great pressure from human activities.
Of South Africa’s 136 marine and coastal habitat types, 47% are threatened. Seventeen percent of the 136 are critically endangered, 7% endangered, and 23% vulnerable. Fourteen habitat types have been mapped in the Namaqualand MPA, of which seven are critically endangered; one endangered; two are vulnerable and four are least threatened.
Head of Department at the Northern Cape Provincial Department of Environment and Nature Conservation (DENC), Denver van Heerden who was also in attendance at the workshop stated “We can assure DEA that it will receive the support from the people of Namaqualand.” Van Heerden emphasised “Our MEC Sylvia Lucas is very passionate about biodiversity. With the establishment of the Northern Cape Provincial Coastal Committee there is a lot of commitment from my side too”.
The rich marine biodiversity in the Namaqualand Coast creates the urgency for it to be formally protected and highlights the importance of MPAs. MPAs have a vital role to play in protecting ecosystems and species; providing ecosystem services; supporting fisheries sustainably; conserving genetic diversity; promoting tourism and providing sites for education and training.
This initial workshop was greatly successful, as opportunities were identified to collaborate with communities and industry, as well as the identification of relevant data sets that may inform decision making processes and future MPA management plans.
The workshop photos can be viewed on the SKEP Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/SKEP-Succulent-Karoo-Ecosystem-Programme/166484863430580