Marine protected areas | WWF South Africa
©: Thomas P. Peschak

Never before has the health of the oceans been more fragile, and more essential to our wellbeing.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a critical tool not only to address many of the threats to marine and coastal ecosystems, but also to meet a wide range of human needs including education, fisheries management, recreation, income generation and research. MPAs are an important tool for fisheries management.

The efficiency of MPAs at building up spawning stocks of commercially important species within their boundaries and increasing catches for local fisheries outside their boundaries has been well documented. MPAs are not only useful tools for effective fisheries management and species protection, they also provide significant benefits in the form of ecosystem services such as coastal protection, waste assimilation and flood management. If properly designed and managed, MPAs can play vitally important roles in protecting marine habitats and biodiversity through.

Managed by provincial conservation agencies, from CapeNature to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, there are 24 marine protected areas in South Africa which include a range of ‘no-take’ zones (where no fishing is allowed) and ‘controlled’ areas (where limited fishing activities are allowed). Each of these areas plays a different role in protecting critical habitats or species and/ or providing pristine areas for eco-tourism and research. The most recent and biggest of which is South Africa’s first offshore marine protected area, the Prince Edward Islands in the Southern Ocean.

We need more of these protected areas in the right places, where the conservation need is most urgent and where the potential for their contribution – for both humans and wildlife – is at its highest. However, marine protected areas are not without their challenges and it is important to ensure that they deliver meaningful long-term benefits for all members of society.

Through initiatives like the MPA Forum and creating the Guidelines for Integrating Human Dimensions into MPA Planning and Management, WWF is working with government, local communities and other stakeholders to develop co-operative and collaborative management approaches which recognise the challenges of balancing all the different user’s need. 

© Thomas .P. Peschack

      Benefits of marine protected areas

  • Conserving representative samples of marine biodiversity and ecosystems

  • Protecting critical habitats for the reproduction and growth of species

  • Allowing sensitive ocean areas to recover from the stresses of exploitation

  • ​Supporting marine species’ growth areas to allow for ‘spillover’ into surrounding exploited areas

  • Ensuring pristine areas for marine-based environmental education

  • Contributing to healthy marine sites for sustainable and responsible eco-tourism

  • Providing undisturbed sites for scientific research and benchmarking that allows long-term monitoring which helps to guide management of fishery resources in exploited areas.

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Benefits of marine protected areas

Never before has the health of the oceans been more fragile, and more essential to our wellbeing. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a particularly important tool for fisheries management. Download this infographic for more information.

MPA benefitsPNG 421 KB

© Thomas P. Peschak

SA's marine protected areas

  • West Coast National Park (Langebaan)

  • Table Mountain  (Cape Town)

  • Tsitsikamma (near Storm’s River)

  • Bird Island (Algoa Bay)

  • Betty’s Bay (Betty’s Bay)

  • De Hoop (near Cape Agulhas)

  • Stilbaai (Stilbaai)

  • Goukamma (near Knysna)

  • Robberg (Plettenberg Bay)

  • Amathole (near East London)

  • Dwesa-Cwebe (near Umtata)

  • Hluleka (near Coffee Bay)

  • Pondoland (north of Port St Johns)

  • Trafalgar (north of Port Edward)

  • Aliwal Shoal (near Umkomaas)

  • iSimangaliso (north of Durban)

  • Helderberg (near Strand)

  • Sardinia Bay (Port Elizabeth)

  • Prince Edward Islands (Southern Ocean)

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

The seafood supply chain, from where it was caught to where it is eventually eaten, includes everything from catching, transporting, trading, processing, and packaging to selling of seafood through retailers and in restaurants. 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. 

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. Read more here.