The prospect for a “vibrant, sustainable blue economy” is on South Africa’s doorstep, South Africa’s environmental affairs minister, Dr Edna Molewa, told the United Nation’s Ocean Conference that got underway in New York this week.
Marking World Ocean’s Day, the conference brings together world leaders in exploring how best to make sustainable use of the oceans with adequate protection measures in place.
Molewa said South Africa was a unique hotspot of marine biodiversity – home to more 10,000 marine species.
At the same time, marine transportation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and emerging prospects of oil and gas development offered unprecedented opportunities for growth.
“There is the potential to contribute up to R177 billion rand to GDP by 2033 compared to R54 billion rand in 2010, and increase the number of jobs from 316 000 to just over 1 million,” said Molewa.
“But these come with high environmental and socio-economic impacts,” said Molewa.
To address this, Molewa said her department was negotiating with stakeholders for Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) that will bring ocean protection within South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ) to at least 5% of the area, providing protection to “over 90% of all habitat types”.
She said this was being done through Operation Phakisa (hurry up).
“We are working with relevant stakeholders to realise the aspirations of economic growth while maintaining the ocean’s environmental integrity,” said Molewa.
Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman, Zolile Nqayi, said that the DEA had last year received more than 600 public comments about a proposed expanded network of 22 MPAs.
“We have collated and responded to most of the comments and are now engaging with other ocean sector departments to agree on allocation of ocean space as there might be potential conflicts that need resolving before a decision can be taken by Minister,” said Nqayi. “As soon as that is completed, the minister will make an announcement.”
Click here to read SABC’s news coverage of Molewa’s address.