Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designated parts of the marine environment that are protected by the government, mainly by limiting human activity in the area. They can be established in a variety of habitats, from vibrant coral reefs in the open ocean to teeming wetlands and estuaries.
MPAs are chosen for their unique biodiversity, heritage significance, and importance to maintaining the biosphere. These places are bursting with marine life and are incredibly valuable for our planet's health. MPA Day, on 1 August every year, honours these areas and reminds us of their importance to us and marine biodiversity. South Africa has 41 MPAs, as you can see below!
Here are four ways that you can enjoy and make the most of your local MPA!
Explore the tidal zone!
The rocky shore tidal zone has a wealth of treasures to discover! From spiky sea urchins and slippery sea cucumbers to pretty anemones and scuttling crabs. One of the best ways to get to know your local MPA, and have fun doing it, is to explore the wonders of tidal pools!
Being able to marvel at the abundance of life in a tidal pool is a reminder to appreciate the difference MPAs make for the smallest (and most intricate) life forms!
Do something active!
All the MPAs throughout South Africa boast unique geography and stunning scenery. Some of the best ways to experience these wild spaces mean fully immersing yourself in them. Outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, walking, or snorkelling allow MPA-goers to gain a deeper understanding of the value of MPAs. For example, without competition from commercial fishers, scuba divers have reported having much richer experiences with abundant fish life.
Clean up your local beach!
One of the driving reasons behind the establishment of MPAs is to protect our ocean and the marine environment. Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to marine life, and in consequence, to our marine protected areas. Why not organise a beach clean-up in your local MPA? This can be as simple as gathering a few friends, a couple of trash bags, and a love for the environment!
Visit the penguins on Boulders Beach.
The African penguin colony on Boulders Beach in Simonstown makes several million rands each year in ticket sales – it is one of Cape Town’s most popular tourism destinations and a must-visit. Boulders Beach is one of the few places left in the world where you can see the African penguin in the wild.