Celebrating and protecting South Africa's ocean beauty should be high on everyone's agenda. Thanks to a brilliant new website from South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Department of Environmental Affairs, we can all take a closer look at the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in our waters, and what lies below the waves of the 5% of our ocean they hope to conserve.

On this website, you can check out: 

UPDATE (24 October 2018): Today we can celebrate – declaration of 20 of the 22 proposed MPAs has been approved by Cabinet as part of Operation Phakisa. This is absolutely fantastic news for our oceans and the life they support, including human lives.

Here at the Two Oceans Aquarium, we believe in celebrating and protecting South Africa's ocean heritage. Ocean heritage is about protecting priceless historical, cultural, biological and archaeological resources within our marine environment. The work being done for current and future generations by South Africa's biologists, conservationists, photographers, artists, organisations, institutions, government departments and ocean gurus is invaluable and something that we will always champion. We are thrilled to play even a small part along with these ocean heroes to ensure the protection of the amazing diversity of our oceans, and to be able to share the history and stories with the greater public to ensure respect for our environment.

Inspired by SANBI's MPA project, we have created a brand new exhibit at the Aquarium called "MzanSea". Through an interactive installation, visitors to the Aquarium can view the locations and names of existing and proposed South African MPAs. We've also put on display stunning images by some of our favourite photographers like Geoff Spiby, Otto Whitehead, Peter Chadwick, Olivia Anderson, Steve Benjamin and Jean Tresfon. Come and explore the importance and beauty of our unique coastal heritage - worthy of protection! 

The incredible research, new discoveries and breathtaking images on the new MPA website are thanks to 12 years of collaborative efforts by the Department of Science and Technology and the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Program (ACEP) funded by the National Research Foundation. Be sure to check out the interactive map of the new marine reserves, explore their unique wildlife and find out what research is on the cutting edge of SA's oceans.

Credit: Geoff Spiby
Credit: Peter Chadwick
Credit: ACEP

The researchers developing and supporting our MPAs

Dr Kerry Sink

Dr Kerry Sink has dedicated her career to mapping, studying, motivating, negotiating, communicating, publically participating and planning MPAs and studying her pet coelacanths and all sorts of amazing deep-sea animals. In 2017, she was honoured with the WWF Living Planet Award for her contribution to decisive government planning, policy and management in the marine environment. Kerry also mentors and guides new and future generations of marine scientists and she has been tirelessly championing the establishment of MPAs in South Africa through advocacy and hard-core science.

Dr Kerry Sink. Photo courtesy Pew

Think you're doing enough with your life? Think again! Here are just a few of Kerry's other (very many) achievements:

  • The highly successful WWF Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) was Kerry's brainchild back in 2002. She has played a critical role in ensuring the scientific credibility of the seafood assessments and continues to contribute through her role on the independent SASSI review panel. 
  • After coordinating the highly successful African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme for the South African Institute for Aquatic Biology, Kerry joined SANBI in 2006, building its Marine Programme.
  • In 2010, Kerry led the WWF-funded Offshore Marine Protected Area (OMPA) project, which identified the key areas for offshore protection. This work has subsequently been advanced through the government’s recent Operation Phakisa project which has set ambitious targets of increasing South Africa’s MPAs from 0.5% to 5% of our oceans.
  • Through her work at SANBI, Kerry was responsible for coordinating and producing a number of key publications including the Marine and Coastal Component Report of the 2011 National Biodiversity Assessment. She was also instrumental in ensuring that the recently launched Biodiversity and Mining Guidelines included a marine component, which, given the increasing pressures on the marine environment from oil and mineral exploitation, will be an important tool to help guide development in the marine environment.
  • In 2014, Kerry was successful in setting up the SeaKeys project - a collaboration that aims to collate and increase marine biodiversity information and translate this information into products to support decision making and the development of new benefits for South African society.
  • In 2016 she was one of five scientists around the world to receive a Pew Marine Fellowship award which she is using to support research to improve ocean conservation and management.

Kerry - we are deeply inspired by and hugely grateful for your tenacity and talent. 

Credit: Laurent Ballesta

Luther Adams

"I am Luther Adams from the landlocked suburb Kraaifontein, Cape Town and I am currently undertaking my MSc in Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town."

Credit: Luther Adams

"My study is on deep sea and offshore foundational biodiversity of benthic invertebrate communities on the continental shelf off the Kei River using a high resolution remotely operated vehicle (ROV). I have just started to extract the data and view the footage, but I can say that fynbos definitely has a contender for beauty! The study area spans through parts of the proposed Amatole Offshore MPA complex - paleo-shorelines, unique coral and sponge reefs. Many endangered and threatened fish species inhabit this area, such as the red steenbras. Threatened canyon, gravel and mud habitats are also present, as is the home of the first coelacanth discovered, caught by Captain H Goosen in 1938." 

Credit: Luther Adams/ACEP

Prideel Majiedt

"My name is Prideel Majiedt and I am the marine scientist working with Kerry Sink; I’ve been at SANBI for 10 years. I grew up in Bishop Lavis and obtained my undergraduate and Honours degrees in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). I completed an MPhil in Environmental Management in 2016 at Stellenbosch University."

Prideel Majiedt on the 2016 Deep Secrets Cruise.

"I am the lead author of the Systematic Marine Biodiversity Plan for the West Coast of South Africa which identified areas for protection along the West Coast. I was mostly involved in the early negotiations with industry on developing the boundaries for the Namaqua National Park MPA which is adjacent to the Namaqua National Park. As the Northern Cape is currently the only coastal province with no MPAs, this MPA will not only provide the first protection for several critically endangered ecosystem types, but also provide protection for hake nursery habitats and support the recovery of the West Coast rock lobster." 

Grant van der Heever

"My name is Grant van der Heever. I grew up in Bishop Lavis outside Cape Town and later moved to Kuilsriver, where I spent most of my young adult life. I have a Master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation biology (with a focus in marine biology) that I obtained from UWC in 2017."

Charles von der Meden and Grant van der Heever fixing a faulty cable on the Ski-Monkey III camera system

"I am currently employed as an instrument technician at SAEON Egagasini Offshore node where I am responsible for the operation of the biodiversity sampling equipment, which includes a "live-feed" underwater camera system called the Ski-Monkey III. The Ski-Monkey III camera system has been used to survey numerous areas in South Africa's EEZ, from as close as the Agulhas Bank to as far as the Prince Edward Islands in the Southern Ocean! My colleague, Charles von der Meden (NRF Post-Doctoral Research Fellow), and I have recently been involved in camera work off Childs Bank and Browns Bank, two sites that were gazetted as proposed MPAs in 2016. The footage obtained from these sites was nothing short of amazing, with images and videos revealing a number of undocumented features as well as possible new species. We hope to continue this kind of work in the future so that we can better understand these “previously unseen” environments and use the footage to contribute towards their protection."

Image depicting a diverse array of invertebrate species at the Childs Bank site

Sizo Sibanda

"I am Sizo Sibanda, a MSc Marine Biology student from the University of Cape Town and working with the South African National Biodiversity Institute. I am from Alexandra township and got exposed to Marine Biology in undergrad while pursuing a BSc."

Sizo Sibanda

"My research seeks to identify the next 5% for marine protection of our mainland marine territory, taking into consideration the socio-ecological benefits. Working in the marine space is incredibly rewarding, there is still so much to learn and discover and we can still do better to ensure that we protect our natural heritage." 

Sizo diving in iSimangaliso

MzanSea: Celebrating our ocean heritage

On 26 September 2018, the Two Oceans Aquarium brought together the country's leading ocean heroes to celebrate the launch of SANBI's Marine Protected Areas website. Through thoughtful and fascinating presentations by Dr Kerry Sink and associates, Craig Foster of SeaChange, and underwater photographer Steve Benjamin, the attendees were taken on a voyage of discovery, ocean heritage and hope. 

It was brilliant to have so many amazing people in the room. Organisations represented on the night included WWF South Africa, WildOceans, the Department of Environmental Affairs, the University of Cape Town, SANBI, the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Waves for Change, SeaSearch, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the Beach Co-op, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Marine Stewardship Council.    

On the evening, Two Oceans Aquarium Curator Maryke Musson paid homage to the generations of South African marine scientists and their pivotal work: "While reading up about shipwrecks recently, I found out that a shipwreck is called a historical shipwreck if it is 60 years old or older. I know that we have a few generations of marine scientists here tonight – and also a few legendary "historical" biologists. So another thing to celebrate tonight will be the decades of work done on implementing Marine Protected Areas. I am aware of the work done, since the ’80s, by Colin Attwood (now a professor at UCT) together with Professor Charles Griffiths and Professor George and Margo Branch, and many others around De Hoop, and at the same time Rhodes University students – Angus Patterson (now Director of SAIAB) and Lynton Burger (an Aquarium trustee), and Bruce and Judy Mann at Tsitsikamma – so ensuring the protection of various sensitive marine areas.

"Angus also recently stated in the Into the Blue publication on the African Coelecanth Ecosystem Programme that JLB Smith and the discovery of the live coelacanth here on the South African coast inspired generations of ichthyologists. So, tonight we are also celebrating the amazing coelacanth story and its direct connection with MPAs and the opening of our Coelacanth discovery wall. We had tremendous assistance from Prof Mike Bruton – a huge big thank you, Mike. Kerry Sink is not just the MPA champion – but seems to have about 30 coelacanth pets – for real. She has been studying the coelacanths off Sodwana for 18 years and literally knows them individually. On top of that – we are celebrating the 80-year anniversary of the discovery of the coelacanth off East London this year – and today is also the birthday of both the late JLB and his wife Margaret. In recognition of your work – we are also celebrating coelacanths."

Be sure to follow the ongoing research in these proposed MPAs as we progress to preserving 5% of South Africa's waters - we know we'll be watching eagerly!

Credit: Luther Adams/ACEP

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