Offshore MPA Assessment in South Africa

Anastasiya Laznya

Marine ecosystems play a fundamental ecological and economic role, hosting some of the richest biodiversity on the planet while providing food and livelihood to millions of people. Governments around the world are increasingly recognizing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a key tool in biodiversity conservation, food security, and fisheries management, addressing many of the threats to marine and coastal ecosystems. Our study aims to analyze the protection level granted by 16 new offshore MPAs established in South Africa under Operation Phakisa and to draw conclusions on their effectiveness. We used two novel classification systems, the Regulation Based Classification System and the objective-based MPA Guide. The results from both systems show a great potential of South African Offshore MPAs for biodiversity conservation, with over 73% of the zones strongly protected. The country also incorporates multiple zonation in the MPA design and establishment, which was proven to increase the MPA socio-economic performance.  However, the existence of active mining leases that overlap with the Designated protected areas poses a constant threat to effective marine conservation. It appears important to establish a regular assessment cycle of South African MPAs to update the information gathered as levels of establishment progress and monitoring reports increase the information available about enforced regulations.