Celebration of World Oceans Day
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) will lead World Ocean Day (WOD) on 08 June 2022. WOD is celebrated annually on 08 June and has a history spanning over two decades. It was initially proposed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since then, WOD has been coordinated internationally by The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network with global participation. It was officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 and is observed, since 2009, by all member states, including South Africa.
The marine environment of South Africa is an asset of great importance and a major focal point for human habitation and socio-economic activities. Our ocean sustains numerous industries such as tourism, conservation, fisheries, aquaculture, and telecommunication which are part of the country’s critical economic backbone. The ocean is also linked to the country’s cultural heritage, and therefore significant for the wellbeing of South Africans and the safeguarding of traditions.
In the past, planning and management of human uses in the ocean space has usually been pursued on a sectoral basis. Sectoral regulation has however little or no consideration of policies and plans of other sectors or requirements that may be conflicting or compatible. In many countries this situation has already caused conflicts among human uses such as conservation and oil and gas exploration. Such conflicts affect the ability of the ocean to provide the services upon which humans depend on. This single-sector planning and management approach also limits the capacity of decision-makers to pro-actively plan for the future, instead requiring them to react to conflict that minimizes the sustainable growth of their countries.
The broad and growing range of these industries in the ocean requires careful and collective coordination and cooperation in making decisions on the sustainable use, conservation, and management of our marine resources. To improve ocean health and realise the full socio-economic potential of our ocean resources, there must be inclusive, coordinated, collaborating and sustained effort across sectors and communities that rely on the existence of our living and non-living ocean resources to raise awareness of conservation need for ocean resources for the benefit of current and future generations.
An integrated approach to marine planning and revitalisation has been adopted, that reflects the connectivity and diversity of marine socio-ecological systems in times of a changing climate and expanding economic interests. In this context, marine spatial planning (MSP) is introduced in South Africa as a collective approach that guides when, where, and how human activities occur in the sea. The aim of MSP is to manage human demands in the ocean in ways that integrate conservation, economic and social interests. As one of the critical steps towards realizing MSP in South Africa, the National MSP Data and Information Report (NDIR) was published in March 2022. This report is the first multi-sector document of its kind and establishes the knowledge baseline for ocean planning and revitalisation.
In addition to MSP, South Africa’s marine protected area (MPA) network plays a role in protecting marine ecosystems and delivering significant socio-economic benefits. MPA networks are an important part of the global movement towards a more holistic management approach that considers entire ecosystems and acknowledges multiple sectors and many management objectives. Representative MPA networks are recognised as a critical component of commitments related to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Summit for Sustainable Development, and the World Parks Congress. If properly designed and managed, MPAs play a vitally important role in protecting the marine environment and therefore, a leading role in the revitalisation of marine resources.
The careful MPA planning processes followed have resulted in a highly efficient MPA network design with strong emphasis on ecosystem representation, such that 87% of South Africa’s 150 marine ecosystem types have at least some representations in an area covering just 5.4% of the economic exclusive zone. The MPA network will contribute to meeting long-term ocean protection commitments and will also bolster the natural capital that underpins South Africa’s rapidly growing marine economy. MPA networks will also support sectors that are major economic drivers, including fishing and tourism, and the jobs and livelihoods that these sectors sustain.
Recognising the role of MSP and MPA in revitalization the ocean, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is mandated by the Marine Spatial Planning Act, 2018, as the lead department for marine spatial planning in South Africa. In this capacity, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment will collaborate with all relevant national authorities that have a mandate relating to marine planning and management in developing three marine area plans along the mainland and one around the Prince Edward Islands. The development of the first plan which will be the southern marine area plan will commence in 2023.
WOD 2022 will be celebrated by the world under the theme “Revitalisation: Collective Action for the Ocean.” World Ocean Day is used to educate the broader public about the importance of our oceans and the need to contribute towards their protection. The WOD further provides DFFE with an opportunity to showcase policies, plans, and legislation developed to promote the integration of ocean management and sustainable ocean development.