World Oceans Day has a history spanning over two decades and was originally proposed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
According to Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy, as the oceans economy intensifies, there was increasing urgency to provide the necessary protection to a representative sample of marine ecosystems.
The minister said the declaration of the 20 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) was an important step in the protection of the oceans environment in the country.
The MPAs have increased the spatial protection of South Africa’s oceans environment from the current 0.4 percent to 5.4 percent, and would provide a measure of protection to 90 percent of marine habitat types within the South African Exclusive Economic Zone, the minister said.
“The new network strives to support multiple objectives for biodiversity in alignment with oceans economy goals.
“This new network of 20 MPAs will, among other things, contribute to fisheries sustainability, advance marine ecotourism, and will help maintain resilience in ecosystems that are under stress from climate change,” Creecy said.
The MPAs include seamounts, submarine canyons, volcanic pinnacles, and a variety of ecosystem types on the shelf, continental margin, and abyss in both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans coastline of 2,798 km.