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Celebrating the tenacious women protecting our ocean this Women’s Day!

By Olivia Jones Communications
- Our team, Blog
Celebrating the tenacious women protecting our ocean this Women’s Day!

As the 3rd Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day celebrations conclude, it’s time to honour the dynamic women who have committed their lives to protect the ocean and its inhabitants. This Women’s Day, it’s time to shine a spotlight on the MPA Day women who are educating people about ocean health to ensure the survival of marine life and the planet.

Dr Judy Mann2

Dr Judy Mann

Founder of MPA Day, and the Executive of Strategic Projects at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation

Q: What work do you do in MPAs/for MPAs?

I do research, with a focus on the social effectiveness of MPAs. Our research has shown the critical role that local community support plays in MPA governance, and we are exploring better ways for communities to benefit from MPAs. I also study the impact of awareness-raising campaigns, to that we can better communicate about MPAs. I am passionate about raising awareness and building support for MPAs so I design communication campaigns and exhibits, facilitate workshops and since 2021 I have co-ordinated MPA Day. MPA Day has been one of the most exciting and fulfilling campaigns that I have been involved in – because of the passion and hard work of our tiny team!

Q: Why do you do what you do? What drives you to keep going?

My love for the ocean started at an early age – fishing with my dad in the Eastern Cape. I am passionate about the ocean and I believe that MPAs are one of the best tools in the conservation toolkit to protect the ocean for current and future generations. My husband Bruce Mann inspires me daily – his passion for MPAs is infectious!

Q: What is your hope for MPAs and ocean protection?

For ocean protection, I would love everyone to appreciate the value of the ocean – to act as though their lives depended on the ocean – because our lives do depend on the ocean. I would love to see a complete shift in society's values – from consumerism– to a gentler, kinder world in which we value each other and nature. For MPAs, I hope to see communities around the world deciding to set aside parts of the ocean as protected areas – and then defending those areas with appropriate government support.

Q: What is the one thing you would like people to do about MPAs?

Learn more about them, work with others to share that knowledge and build community support for MPAs. I would also like us to see how we can engage and empower communities close to MPAs to gain greater benefits from the MPAs. And I would love everyone to obey the regulations in MPAs.

Q: What is your favourite marine species, and why?

I love the Seventyfour fish – it is a fish that gives me hope. By the 1960s this species had been fished to economic extinction – now, after 24 years of protection, the population is recovering. This shows me that if we protect nature and give it a chance, it can bounce back.

Q: What is your favourite MPA and why?

The Tsitsikamma MPA is my favourite – it is where my husband and I first connected – and it is our oldest MPA. It shows the value of old, no-take MPAs for nature and people.

Helen Lockhart 2

Helen Lockhart

Conservation & Sustainability Manager, Two Oceans Aquarium

Q: What work do you do in MPAs/for MPAs?

I am part of the MPA Day team that conceptualises, plans and carries out the activities and communications for MPA Day. MPAs are part of the broader work I do at the Two Oceans Aquarium in terms of creating awareness around the ocean through exhibits, signage, online communication, and campaigns. I was thrilled when Judy asked me to join the MPA Day team as it is an opportunity to work with other passionate ocean advocates, learn more and be inspired!

Q: Why do you do what you do? What drives you to keep going?

I feel a deep connection to the ocean and all of nature. It is my only home and part of my extended family. It is what gives me life. Although I grew up far away from the sea it has been an integral part of my life for the past thirty years as not only do I now live close to it, but I also work in the field of ocean conservation. The plants and animals of the marine realm continually astound me and teach me new things. I am also inspired by the many people who have dedicated their lives to protecting the ocean.

Q: If you had a superpower, what would be the one thing you would do for marine conservation?

In the words of the poet Mary Oliver, I would want people to “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.”

She also said that "attention is the beginning of devotion". In our distracted, fast-paced, materialistic world we have forgotten what it means to slow down, to truly pay attention and to feel connected to other life forms around us.

Q: What is the one thing you would like people to do about MPAs?

Explore them, learn about them, and tell others about them. I would like all voices to be heard and to see all communities working to care for our ocean for the benefit of all life.

Q: What is your favourite marine species and why?

Not an easy choice as there are so many! If I had to choose it would be the puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii), also known as “Happy Eddie”. This little shark is endemic to our coast so it is proudly South African. It hatches out of an egg case called a mermaid’s purse and has the most beautiful, mesmerising eyes. When threatened, it curls its tail over its eyes. This vulnerability is a reminder that all sharks, and indeed all forms of life, face ongoing challenges to survive. As humans, we have the power to make better choices and to change our behaviour positively for the benefit of every living being.

Q: What is your favourite MPA and why?

The Table Mountain National Park MPA is my favourite because it is literally on my doorstep and the animals and plants living in it are my wild neighbours. I love spending time in the MPA - snorkelling, kayaking, exploring rock pools, boogie boarding, and doing beach cleanups - and when I do, my soul sings!

De hoop marine protected areas south africa steve benjamin fish roman web

What is MPA Day?

The inaugural Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day was held on 1 August 2021 in South Africa to celebrate these "game reserves of the sea" with several exciting activities planned at home and abroad. MPA Day, which is now an annual celebration, helps people collectively appreciate the value of MPAs and how they benefit humans and the incredible marine biodiversity they are designed to protect.

Go to: Learn more about MPAs here

To find out more about MPA Day, visit

Keep updated by following InstagramTwitterFacebook, YouTubeTikTok or LinkedIn

The partners involved in MPA Day are Two Oceans Aquarium, Flow Communications, Olivia Jones Communications, WildOceans (a programme of WildTrust), WWF-SA, I am Water, Cape Nature, SAEON-NRF, Adventure Mania and the SAAMBR.

Thanks to Olivia Jones Communications for this content!

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