Hope Spot for Plett
In December 2014 Dr Sylvia Earle, a world famous diver, oceanographer, National Geographic Explorer and a founder of the global Mission Blue organisation will be launching the countries first 5 Hope Spots. The 5 Hope Spots will be launched at Aliwal Shoal in Kwazulu-Natal, Algoa Bay, Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and the Cape Whale Coast.
Hope spots are defined as ”special conservation areas that are critical to the health of the ocean- Earth’s blue heart”. Only less than 3% of the Ocean is protected, which is why Hope Spots are needed as conservation measures for the Ocean due to their ability to maintain biodiversity, act as attractions for ecotourism, provide habitat for different organisms,act as a carbon sink and other benefits to the ocean. Hope Spots give marine and coastal environments a chance to flourish and recover as human activities and impacts will be minimised by community self-regulation. Hope Spots are chosen for their geographical uniqueness, marine life diversity and special habitat.South Africa has a rich diversity of marine life and marine habitats and deserves to have these 5 International Hope Spots launched.The tour for the launch is being organised by Sustainable Seas Trust, BirdLife South Africa and other supporting organisations that have an interest in marine conservation.
Plettenberg Bay is a region of high marine diversity due to its geographical, geological, oceanographic and biological location. It’s one of the few areas in the country that still has some of its natural look even though human impact is visible and that is why public support will really be beneficial to reduce negative impacts that humans have on the area. Some of the vegetation areas in the region are classified as endangered therefore it is necessary that these areas be conserved as they act as habitat for some birds and some as buffers against wave action and storms. Due to climate change, it is predicted that sea level will rise with frequent occurrences of storms so it’s very important that we conserve the Plettenberg Bay area and its natural resources for the future, and this Hope Spot aims to do just that. Plettenberg Bay has rivers and estuaries flowing into the sea, these rivers and estuaries are home to a wide variety of fish and bird species and there’s been a decline in some of the species due to human disturbance, development, agricultural run-off and other pollution sources. Besides rivers and estuaries that run through Plettenberg Bay, there’s also 2 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) namely the Tsitsimakamma and the Robberg MPA’s. MPAs are good for managing fish populations because they allow fish stock recovery and increases in fish in adjacent areas by providing larvae, juveniles and adults.Therefore it is necessary that they be included in the Hope Spot area. MPAs are also under protection but with a Hope Spot in place the protection will include active participation between the government, the public and NGO’s where it will enable better communication and proactive management of Plettenberg Bay and its marine and coastal resources.
Hope Spots work in a way that public participation should be available in every step of the way. Besides the government, NGO’s are a good platform to get the public involved because they are able to reach the public and encourage participation. The Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT) is one of the NGO’s involved with the planning of the Plett Hope Spot launch, with the NVT director Dr Mark Brown in place as the chairman of the Plett Hope Spot planning committee. NVT is the largest conservation education provider in Plettenberg Bay with several different programs including a large schools program, and the hosting of international students to come gain ecological research and conservation experience. It also conducts ecological research and sometimes partners with other organisations and institutes to conduct ecological research. The conservation education program is a great tool to get the public involved because it works with schools and communities which is one of the goals of Hope Spots. NVT will be working with other NGO’s, conservation organisations, schools, the municipality, businesses and the general public to make sure that the Plett Hope Spot launch is a success and to find a proactive way forward.
Hope Spots aim to conserve our marine and coastal life and habitats with a public participation approach in mind. Over the years we have seen biodiversity loss in our marine ecosystem and habitats due to anthropogenic causesso it’s important that we go back as the public and try to rebuild what we have lost and conserve what we have left,which is why public participation will be very important for the Hope Spot initiative to become a success. It is important that we use our marine resources in a sustainable way and Hope Spots hopes achieve that. The Plett Hope Spot will not only work to benefit marine conservation but to help businesses, education institutes, schools and increase the ecotourism value in the area so it is necessary that everyone gets involved for the benefits to be enjoyed.
Last word from Mark: Ruth Moeti, the author of this blog, is a young marine conservationist currently doing a GroenSebenza internship with NVT. Ruth spent a year working for DEA, in the Oceans and Coastal Research unit, and has research experience on Gough Island. Ruth is working with me on the Plett Hope Spot initiative.