13 reasons why you should celebrate MPA Day

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“Research involving visitors to uShaka Sea World revealed that only about half knew what an MPA is. This means that days like #MPADay are vital to building awareness of MPAs and their role in sustainability.” – Dr Judy Mann, Founder of MPA Day

What started as a local celebration of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2021 grew into a global event in 2022, with the 2023 celebration of MPA Day on 1 August set to be the biggest one yet! In preparation for MPA Day 2023, event organisers have shared some interesting facts about these safe havens for marine creatures and their homes.

“Despite the importance of MPAs to our ocean health – and the health of our planet – very few people are aware of their existence,” explained Dr Judy Mann, Founder of MPA Day, and the Executive of Strategic Projects at The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation. “Through our annual MPA Day celebrations, we’re growing awareness about these vital marine havens and are excited to garner even more support across the globe. In the build-up to MPA Day celebrations and all the exciting events planned around this, we’re sharing MPA facts to encourage even more support!”

13 Fast Facts about MPAs

Fact #1: An MPA is a defined region designated and managed for the long-term conservation of marine resources, ecosystem services, and cultural heritage.

Fact #2: MPAs can be zoned to allow different forms of human use. Research has repeatedly shown that no-take areas where no fishing or extraction is allowed are the most effective at conserving marine resources and biodiversity.

Fact #3: In 2022, nearly 200 nations finalised the 30×30 global target to protect 30% of the world’s ocean and land areas by 2030. This landmark agreement is vital towards building a biodiverse, productive, and resilient future.

Fact #4: Approximately 8.2% of the world’s oceans are MPAs but of these, less than 3% fall into zones that are fully or highly protected from the impacts of fishing (no-take). Many MPAs could be improved through expansion or by increasing the proportion of areas zoned for no-take through open and honest communication with all stakeholders.

Fact #5: There are 41 marine protected areas (MPAs) in the mainland waters of South Africa covering 5.4% of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), of these 3% is highly protected (no-take).

Fact #6: Research has shown that South Africa’s MPAs provide some protection to all identified marine ecoregions, and 87% of ecosystem types.

Fact #7: Many species of fish have homes, and different fishes have different home range sizes. Scientists have worked out that many of South Africa’s reef fish are quite resident and do not move far from their homes. Research on linefish species in the De Hoop, Goukamma, Tsitsikamma, Dwesa-Cwebe, Pondoland and iSmangaliso MPAs has shown that well-enforced, no-take areas help resident reef fishes increase in number and size.

Fact #8: Recent research shows that MPAs can even help to support the recovery of the Endangered African Penguin in certain areas.

Fact #9: Adult fish that breed in MPAs can supply adjacent fished areas with eggs and larvae which sustain fisheries. In many ways MPAs work like a bank – if we protect the fish in the MPAs (capital in the bank) we can harvest the spillover (interest) that flows out of the MPAs. MPAs are an insurance policy for healthy ocean systems and healthy ocean economies, and are an investment in our own future well-being.

Fact #10: MPAs are essential for climate change adaptation and for maintaining the persistence and resilience of South Africa’s marine biodiversity.

Fact #11: MPAs protect natural heritage, nursery habitats for marine species, uniquely South African plants and animals (such as our iconic fish ‘Seventy-four’), endangered species (such as our living fossils like coelacanths), and cultural heritage.

Fact #12: MPAs contribute directly to human well-being through their roles in the local economy, tourism, education, emotional upliftment, research, and climate change resilience.

Fact #13: People can dive, walk, swim, play, and do a wide range of non-consumptive activities in all MPAs.

Join in on all the MPA Day 2023 action by visiting www.marineprotectedareas.org.za for updated events and activities. Join in the discussions around MPAs on Instagram @marineprotectedareassa, Twitter @MPAsSA1 or Facebook Marine Protected Areas SA @MPASouthAfrica. For more information about South Africa’s MPAs, visit

The partners involved in MPA Day are, Two Oceans Aquarium, Flow Communications, Olivia Jones Communications, , WildOceans (a programme of WildTrust), WWF-SA, I am Water, Cape Nature, SAEON-NRF, the SAAMBR .