10 April 2013

Prince Edward Islands declared South Africa's first offshore Marine Protected Area

South Africa's Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has declared the Prince Edward Islands the country's first offshore Marine Protected Area (MPA). According to the Minister, "the new MPA is intended, among other things, to contribute to the protection of unique species, habitats and ecosystem processes. It will also provide scientific reference points that can inform the future management of the area and to be able to understand better the impacts of climate change on the whole Southern Ocean. It will also contribute to integrated and ecologically sustainable management of marine resources of the area."
The Prince Edward Islands are two island in the Southern Ocean located about 1,800km south-east of Port Elizabeth in mainland South Africa. Marion island, the larger of the two, is about 25km long, 17km wide and has a coastline of some 72km, while Prince Edward Island is only about 10km long and 6.5km wide. The only human inhabitants on the islands are the staff of a meteorological and biological research station run by the South African National Antarctic Programme on Marion Island.

View Prince Edward Islands declared a Marine Protected Area in a larger map

The marine diversity of the area around the Prince Edward Islands is of significant global importance. They are home to various species of seals (three species), penguins (four species) and Albatross (five species), as well as to several species of whale, especially orcas which prey on penguins and seals.

The new Prince Edward Islands MPA will comprise of three types of zones:
  • A 12 nautical mile sanctuary (no take) zone
  • Four restricted zones, in which fishing effort is limited
  • A controlled zone, linking the four restricted areas. This zone is to be managed as a low impact zone that links the four zones spatially.
The rationale for the zonation is that the Prince Edward Islands MPA will have a 12nm sanctuary zone for the preservation of the unique island ecosystem. The new MPA has a total size of about 180,000km².

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