Seth Onyango, bird story agency
Strict fishing and extraction prohibitions in no-take zones are fuelling Africa's marine biodiversity recovery and boosting coastal cities and towns' tourist-centred economies.
Kenya, Mozambique, and South Africa, which have cordoned off massive swathes of their coastal waters into these zones, are now witnessing thriving marine ecosystems.
According to South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas (SARVA), before 2019, South Africa had only 26 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), which accounted for the protection of 0.4% of the territorial waters.
"In 2019 an additional 20 MPAs were proclaimed and adjustments (aggregations mainly) were made to the existing MPAs.This brought the total number of MPAs to 42. Bringing the total amount of marine protected areas to 5.4% (57 736 km2). This is an increase of approximately 14-fold from the previous marine protection status of 0.4%," their figures show.
Elsewhere, Kenya, with the oldest managed MPA in Africa, now boasts an area of over 55 km² in four Marine National Parks: Malindi, Watamu, Mombasa, and Kisite.
The East African nation also has six Marine National Reserves, incluidng Kiunga, Malindi, Watamu, Mombasa, Diani-Chale, and Mpunguti, with a total area of 735 km².
Further south, in Mozambique, no-take zones are leading to a bigger catch, says the World Wide Fund (WWF). Marine sanctuaries there, including Ibo, Matemo and Quilálea Islands, are helping to replenish octopus populations while a temporariy no-take zone between Ibo and Matemo was able, in just seven months, to replenish the area's marine mollusc population, according to Earth.Org.
"Following that, the Mozambique communities showed their willingness to help enforce no-take zones and also other conservation areas in QNP, as rebounding ecosystems give back to local communities" the organisation said.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) also points to the importance of Mozambique's Premeiras e Segundas, a coastal marine reserve spanning 10,412 km² comprising 10 barrier islands, mangrove forests, coastal estuaries, coral reef complexes, and seagrass beds which support an astonishing array of species.
"Mozambique's largest concentration of endangered green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles swim in these waters, alongside everything from tropical fish to dugongs," said the fund.
In North Africa, Al Hoceima National Park, situated on Morocco's Mediterranean shoreline, is that nation's single and most crucial conservation zone, spanning 484 km².
Serving as a crucial bastion for the indigenous Mediterranean flora and fauna, Al Hoceima hosts numerous species listed as rare or threatened on the IUCN's critical register.
No-take zones are marine protected areas that do not allow any fishing, mining, drilling, or other extractive activities.
Fish and other marine animals in no-take zones can age and grow to large, healthy sizes, increasing their reproductive potential and resilience to environmental changes.
No-take zones also provide a refuge for endangered or threatened species, such as sharks, turtles, and corals, and help to maintain the balance and diversity of marine ecosystems.
But it's not just about marine life. No-take zones are becoming an unexpected economic engine.
As fish populations increase within the no-take zones, they spill over into surrounding waters, enhancing local fishery yields. For the coastal communities relying heavily on fishing, it's a financial boon.
Studies have also shown that MPAs, if well designed and managed, can produce conservation benefits to fish assemblages within no-take zones and fishery benefits in neighbouring areas through 'spillover'.
This comes as climate change affects the ocean ecosystem, especially due to rising ocean temperatures.
In multiple studies, high temperatures have been shown to bleach tiny algae cells on corals and deactivate their growth.
Since most fish find shelter, food, reproduce and rear their young in the nooks formed by corals, the loss of corals leads to a decline in fish.
bird story agency