Our shared oceans | WWF South Africa
©: Peter Chadwick

Our oceans are becoming ever more crowded spaces, and with this growing pressure come a number of environmental and social impacts as well as complex challenges.

Some of the challenges facing South Africa’s marine ecosystems include:

•  Nearly half of our marine and coastal ecosystems are threatened and 40% have no protection at all.

•  Fishing causes the greatest pressure on marine biodiversity while inappropriate coastal development is also having a negative impact. Almost a fifth (17%) of development along our coastline happens within 100m of the shoreline. The majority of marine resources are over-exploited, several marine and coastal species are threatened and invasive alien species are an emerging pressure along our coast.

•  Reduced freshwater river flow (because of over abstraction etc) also has a big impact on our coast. Approximately 40% of our 20 largest river catchments no longer reaches estuaries.

As one of the most effective ocean management tools, WWF is working towards developing a network of effective marine protected areas which can protect marine ecosystems, processes, habitats and species as well as contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic and cultural wellbeing.

While MPAs can help to protect some particularly important habitats, addressing the broader threats requires an integrated approached to managing our oceans. WWF is working to address some of these key threats through tackling local challenges such as unsustainable coastal development and unregulated marine mining.

Recognising that if you don’t get citizens and civil society involved in conservation that you are fighting a losing battle, WWF is also engaging with ‘citizen scientists’ through our FishforLife project. This project aims to engage recreational fishers around improving the knowledge base for managing recreational fisheries, raising awareness about the status of key species and educating fishers around responsible recreational fishing practices. 


The ocean is used in many ways:

  • Fisheries

  • Tourism

  • Transport

  • Mining

  • Mariculture

  • Oil and gas

  • Conservation 

Our marine environment holds great economic value, with coastal goods and services contributing significantly to South Africa’s gross domestic product. Read more here. 

Seafood continues to be one of the most traded food commodities worldwide.  As a result the fisheries and aquaculture (fish farming) sectors are key sources of employment and income, supporting the livelihoods of a significant number of the world’s population. Read more here.

WWF-SASSI was initiated in collaboration with networking partners in 2004 to educate those in the seafood trade from wholesalers to restaurateurs through to seafood lovers about what sustainable seafood is. This is primarily achieved through the development of a seafood sustainability ‘traffic light’ system that divides species into Green-list (sustainable choice), Orange-list (think twice) and Red-list (avoid). Read more here.

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