Endangered seabirds and other marine species protected in huge new South African marine protected area
Cape Town, South Africa: A new 18 million hectare marine protected area (MPA) declared by South Africa is the world’s seventh largest and represents a major step towards the effective protection of the rich biodiversity and commercial fisheries of the Southern Ocean.
The declaration of this offshore MPA – a first for Africa – which lies 2,000km southeast of the country, follows a long and successful collaboration between WWF-South Africa and the South African environmental authorities to complete a thorough planning and stakeholder consultation process, and identify priority areas for protection and sustainable use.
The islands – Prince Edward and Marion – form an important global biodiversity hotspot, hosting eight millions seabirds, of which 2,5 million are nesting. They are home to a suite of spectacular marine wildlife, including albatrosses, penguins, fur seals, killer whales and Patagonian toothfish stocks.
Five albatross species nest on the islands, which boast over 40 percent of the world’s total number of wandering albatross. All five species are declining in numbers. There are also four penguin species, and three seal species, including 33 percent of the world’s total number of southern fur seal.
Unfortunately this wildlife has been threatened by illegal and unsustainable fishing practices in the past, resulting in losses of species such as the albatross and collapse of the commercial fishery with significant economic and ecological losses to South Africa.
Intergovernmental cooperation has been built between the South African authorities with the French authorities responsible for the neighbouring islands of Crozet and Kergeulen, which are also important for biodiversity and fisheries and have also recently been protected.
WWF International’s Director General, Jim Leape, says, “Still too little of the world’s precious oceans are protected from exploitation, and this is a landmark victory for marine conservation – and hopefully a sign of more to come.”
Posted: April 9 2013; Updated April 29 2013