Original Articles

Review of the state of marine protected areas in South Africa

Published in: South African Journal of Marine Science
Volume 18, issue 1, 1997, pages: 341–367
DOI: 10.2989/025776197784160910


The use of marine protected areas (MPAs) in South Africa should be revised in the light of growing problems related to the over-use of marine resources. No consistent policy has been applied to the establishment and management of MPAs. Existing MPAs include marine reserves, restricted areas, single-species restricted areas, National Parks, estuarine protected areas, trawling reserves and offshore islands, declared under a variety of legislation. Marine reserves and restricted areas have been declared under the Sea Fishery Act, but are managed by provincial authorities. The provincial authorities in the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape lack the necessary resources for marine management. By contrast, the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service and the National Parks Board are adequately staffed and equipped to provide all the necessary managerial functions in their MPAs. The effectiveness of most MPAs is not assessed and they do not have clearly stated objectives or management plans. MPA boundaries are inappropriately demarcated at sea. Two marine biogeographic zones and two marine habitat types are poorly represented in MPAs. Ecologically and economically important species are well represented in MPAs, but effective protection is less satisfactory. Some MPAs are playing an important role in fisheries management. Community resource-use programmes in KwaZulu-Natal have helped to control poaching to some extent. It is recommended that South Africa establish a MPA Programme. MPA objectives should be clearly stated and communicated to the public through education programmes. Research, monitoring and enforcement in MPAs should be improved.

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