Media Release: The significance of Africa's oldest Marine Protected Area
A total of 202 species of fish, sharks and rays from 84 families have been recorded in the Tsitsikamma MPA alone. Fifteen of these species can be found on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red data list as either vulnerable or near threatened whilst many other fish species protected by the MPA are classified as over-exploited or collapsed in South Africa. By protecting populations of these species within MPAs, over exploited populations outside the park boundaries would benefit through the movement of either adults or larval fish.
It conserves 11 percent of South Africa’s Temperate South Coast rocky shoreline, the MPA provides a 'laboratory' for fisheries baseline research on endangered line fish species and natural ecosystem functioning.
SANParks scientist, Kyle Smith says ‘comparisons between protected areas and adjacent open areas where fishing occurs highlights the differences in fish community structure. In general within an MPA there is a greater abundance and diversity of fish whilst the average fish size is larger.’ He adds that research in Tsitsikamma has highlighted the benefit of the Park to many fish species including Roman, Dageraad, Red Steenbras, Musselcracker, Blacktail, Galjoen and Carpenter. In some instances the abundance has been six times greater within the park compared to outside! The increase in fish size is also important for the simple reason that larger fish produce more eggs. He affirms that ‘from an ecosystem view Marine Protected Areas work and fulfil their function as both conservation and fishery management tools. However, in the broader context, the sustainability of our fish stocks will ultimately depend on fishing practices outside MPA borders and here consumers have a role to play.’
SANParks Senior Section Ranger for Tsitsikamma, Owen Govender says ‘citizens can start to think globally and act locally by gaining knowledge about the MPA. This is one step towards protecting the ocean.’ Other steps he says include fishing outside an MPA, he cautions fishers to ‘abide by the fishing and bait collection regulations. This includes ensuring that you have the required permits and ensure that your catch is within the bag and size limits. These regulations are in place to protect coastal resources from over-exploitation.’
Benefits of Marine Protected Areas (bluepebble):
- Support sustainable fisheries management
- Maintain ecosystem functioning, resilience and biodiversity
- Conserve species and their habitats
- Provide research opportunities
- Maintain ocean health which reduces global warming
South African National Parks (SANParks) Garden Route Communications
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