Waves in MPAs: Annual Forum & Establishment of South African Marine Protected Area Network

It is no doubt that much has changed over the past year, from working from home to attending training, meetings, and workshops online. The same can be said about the MPA (Marine Protected Area) Forum held in December 2020.

The 2020 MPA Forum, although done online, did not disappoint. It came at the right time, as it served as a source of information where stakeholders were informed of the latest MPA developments and projects that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. Issues discussed included MPA effectiveness, surveillance, marine alien species, whale disentanglement and others.

The two-day event was attended by a range of stakeholders, from MPA managers, staff, researchers, NGOs and students. Although the online forum was a success, it was indeed limiting, especially to community members who need to be part of these conversations. As a way forward, both online and in person engagement is very important in ensuring all stakeholders have an opportunity to build relationships with MPA managers and contribute to the co-management of MPAs.

The aim after all is to work with all the role players in the SA MPA sector to maintain and improve communication, management, and improve the capacity of staff in the SA MPA network. This is done through identification of key priority projects within the sector and discussion of collective solutions.

The good news for the MPA sector continues. WWF-SA have secured funding to establish SAMPAN (South African Marine Protected Area Network). SAMPAN aims to further collaborate and strengthens partnership within the SA MPA sector. The MPA Forum will be part of this project. The project further aims to support and establish a partnership with government and stakeholders to ensure our MPA network is expanded to meet the agreed CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) targets. Be on the lookout for the launch of SAMPAN and more exciting projects to come.

Delsy Sifundza, SAMPAN Coordinator at WWF South Africa