Southern islands - Marine Protected Area

Water affairs minister Edna Molewa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Water affairs minister Edna Molewa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Cape Town - The Prince Edward Islands in the South Atlantic have been declared a Marine Protected Area (MPA), Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Tuesday.

"The new Prince Edward Islands MPA, the first South African offshore MPA, will serve to significantly contribute to global initiatives toward protection of offshore and deep ocean areas," Molewa said in a statement.

The MPA was meant to add to the protection of several species and habitats on the islands.

Three protection zones had been declared:

- A 12 nautical mile (12km) sanctuary (no take) zone;

- Four restricted zones in which fishing was limited; and

- A controlled zone, linking the four restricted areas. This zone was to be managed as a low impact zone which linked the four zones spatially.

The 12 nautical mile no-fishing zoning was meant to help preserve the islands' unique ecosystem and to help recover the toothfish populations, and other species.

"The marine biodiversity of the Prince Edward Islands is of global importance," said Molewa.

"Given the scarcity of land masses in the Southern Ocean, sub-Antarctic islands contain vast populations of seals and seabirds, which use these islands to breed and moult."

The island is home to three species of seals, including a third of the world's sub-Antarctic fur seals.

Four species of penguin and five species of albatross breed on the island.
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