An MPA is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long‐term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.
Protect ecosystems, habitats and species
Provide and secure ecosystem services
Support fisheries sustainably
Provide for sustainable use
Can help address bycatch problems
Conservation of genetic diversity
Undisturbed reference/ benchmark areas
Promote and facilitate tourism
Provide sites for education and training
Electricity and energy are generated from fossil fuels. Under the ocean, fossil fuels can occur as oil or gas. Gas and oil form in the sea over millions of years.
Living organisms which once lived in or near the sea fall to the sea floor and become changed by heat and pressure. Over time lots of sand and eventually rock, builds up over the dead material, trapping it deep underwater. Some of the dead material turns into “Petroleum” what we know commonly as crude oil. Dead material that is buried deeper than oil, is exposed to high temperatures and greater pressures under the bedrock. This becomes natural gas.
Oil and gas can be tapped through drilling at the bottom of the ocean. This is done from a drilling rig.
The production waste caused by the hydrocarbon drilling is highly toxic and the disposal of this waste is a major environmental concern.
Disturbance caused by drilling has a ripple effect on the ocean ecosystem which may never fully recover.
Drilling into the sea floor also produces intense vibrations and this has a negative impact on marine life living on or near the sea floor.
Small oil leaks usually occur during the production and transport of crude oil and pollutes the waters surrounding the rig.
A catastrophic oil spill pollutes tens of thousands of kilometres in a very short space of time as the oil is carried by currents. Oil and water do not mix so it sits on the surface – known as an oil slick. Crude oil is toxic and when marine life become covered in it – it is lethal, and seabirds coated in crude oil cannot swim or fly.
Oil spills also damage air quality as it contains benzenes, toluene and other dangerous hydrocarbons.
Oil and gas are hidden deep under the sea but they form a cavity in the bedrock. This is known as a trap.
This usually leads to the ocean floor being humped over where these “traps” are and geologists (hired by mining giants) can use various methods to locate these deposit and traps. One of these methods is Seismic Surveying.
Seismic Surveying involves shooting high powered sound waves at the sea floor and reading what pattern is bounced back.
These waves are produced through an airgun and are read by streamers trailed many meters behind the airgun. The sounds are blasted at 10 seconds intervals and can be ongoing for up to 24 hours a day.
Marine animals make their own sounds to communicate, for navigation, prey identification and for warning others, and are very sensitive to vibrational changes underwater. The frequency used for seismic surveys is similar, if not louder, than the frequency used by all marine animals and therefore directly competes with the important sounds made by them, impeding their survival.
The most famous sound makers in the ocean are whales and dolphins.
Whales “sing” to each other to communicate and Dolphins use Echolocation to find food, navigate the ocean and as a defensive mechanism.
Seismic surveys have been proven to cause hearing impairment (temporary or permanent), physiological changes (such as stress responses) and tissue damage.
Whales have been known to stop ‘singing’ for several months in the presence of airgun blasts – resuming singing within hours or days after the survey ended.
Zooplankton are essential for the health and productivity of global marine ecosystems. Seismic Surveys mow down and destroy zooplankton in their path and wake, with impacts observed at 1.2km from seismic blasts.
The marine food web depends on Zooplankton being abundant.
Many of South Africa’s important fish species are over-fished, and their stocks have collapsed. While we do have regulations that try to limit how many of these threatened fish are caught and their size, in many cases these fish are still caught and brought up onto boats before being thrown back. Many do not survive this, especially those that live on the sea bottom and are subjected to pressure changes. The only way to help these fish species recover is to create protected areas with no fishing or regulated fishing, this will also create spill-over effects around the edge and enhance fisheries near the MPA.
BYCATCH – Bycatch is the unwanted fish and other marine creatures trapped by commercial fishing nets during fishing for a different species.
“They had been netted as a by-catch but had to be thrown back into the sea dead”
Sea bed sediment mining
As on land the sediments on the ocean floor contain minerals that are valuable for a number of applications, these include titanium, phosphates and diamonds. Extraction of these minerals involves scraping the sea floor as well as digging up and filtering the sediments. This causes significant damage to the structure of the seafloor, disturbing the habitats and organisms living on the seafloor, as well as mobile species (fish, mammals, birds) that depend on these habitats for food and shelter.
Trawl nets for marine resources living near the sea floor (such as prawns, kingklip) are pulled along the sea floor and scrape away everything in their path (such as corals). In South Africa these nets have some of the heaviest bobbins (weights) that keep the net down and bounce along the floor over reefs and other areas. Trawling in this manner is also unselective, so many organisms which are not the target in the fishery are also caught and mostly thrown away and wasted.