Job opportunities in conservation: Youth working in MPAs share experiences

Job opportunities in conservation: Youth working in MPAs share experiences
Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day celebration

In the build-up to the 4th annual Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Day celebration on 1 August 2024, some of the younger MPA community have shared their unique insights into the world of conservation. In addition to the vital contribution MPAs play in marine life protection, they also serve to create economic opportunities for local citizens, including the youth.

 

“Community support is vital for the protection of our Marine Protected Areas. To build this support we need to showcase the value – environmental, economic, and social – of these ‘nature reserves of the sea’,” explained Dr Judy Mann, Founder of MPA Day, and the Executive of Strategic Projects at The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation. “This is best expressed by those who are experiencing the benefits themselves, which is why the youth in MPA management have chosen to share their stories.” ‘These young people are future leaders and through MPA Day we are trying to give them support and encouragement as they find their voices in conservation.” She added.

 

Meet the youth working in MPA Management

 

Shaakira Davood (23) Chairperson of Youth4MPAs working on shark and ray sanctuaries in several MPAs

 

Q: How did you get involved?

A: Youth4MPAs is open to the general youth through www.youth4mpas.com and various youth engagements.

 

Q: What is your role?

A: Youth4MPAs is a youth-led organisation that advocates for the proclamation and expansion of MPAs. Our mission is to capacitate, encourage, and support youth voices that educate and create awareness about ocean health, protection, and sustainability while building youth capacity and strategic relationships across Africa.

 

Q: Do you work with other South African youth?

A: We work with youth activists, social scientists, and research scientists aged 16 to 35 across South Africa from all walks of life.

 

Q: What is your proudest moment?

A: This year, Youth4MPas was invited to participate in the South African Youth Biodiversity Networks, International Biodiversity Days /Youth Article. Youth4MPAs in partnership with WILDOCEANS, a programme of WILDTRUST, held the first-ever virtual African Youth Summit in August 2021 where more than 500 African youth came together for two days to unpack ocean protection. The youth engaged in sessions with experts and other youth leaders in the marine conservation, policy, campaigning, and creative arts professions to identify and develop tailor-made solutions for Africa’s marine space, its people, and future generations. We are also involved in outreach activities such as MPA Day.

 

Vathiswa Bafo (28) from Betty’s Bay MPA in the Western Cape

 

Q: How did you get involved? 

A: Initially I trained as a marine coastal and community monitor with WWF South Africa and then applied to get involved with a project focusing on saving the African Penguin. 

 

Q: What is your role? 

A:  Since August last year, I have been working with CapeNature as a conservation monitor, keeping an eye on the African Penguin colony and other seabirds in the Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area at CapeNature’s Stony Point Nature Reserve. My role is to raise awareness about the declining penguin population through educational talks and data research. 

 

Q: Do you work with other South African youth? 

A: Yes. I work with the Kogelberg Youth Network who want to be the voices in our community. We’re empowering youth with training and awareness programmes. We also collaborate with WWF South Africa, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and CapeNature and recently hosted a Youth Day Career Expo for Grade 10 pupils. 

 

Q: What is your proudest moment? 

A: My proudest moment is generally being part of the team that works towards the goal of saving the African Penguin which is in serious decline. Every morning, I wake up with a positive mindset, knowing that what I do in the colony is my contribution towards saving the species. Another personal moment that I am proud of was when we were doing a coastal patrol and noticed a Kelp Gull that couldn’t fly because it was covered in oil. With the help of the team, I caught the bird and we called the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) who rehabilitated the bird for release a few weeks later.

 

Shannon Lee Sanilall (27) from iSimangaliso MPA in KZN and Shark and Ray Sanctuaries

 

Q: How did you get involved?

A: I started as the African Youth Summit coordinator in 2022 and had a passion for conservation policy. My managers also noticed this which allowed me to start in my role.

 

Q: What is your role?

A: As Marine Policy Coordinator, I interpret, analyse, and comment on conservation policies. It’s important to understand how policy is created, why it’s created, and how it should be applied. It’s a powerful tool for the implementation of protected areas, and to ensure MPAs are governed correctly.

 

Q: Do you work with other South African youth?

A: I’ve had the privilege of sitting on the secretariat of the 30×30 Cross-Cutting committee and had a hand in organising the 30×30 Implementation Workshop. In previous roles, I advocated for increased marine protection in South Africa by co-leading youth awareness campaigns and hosting educational workshops.

 

Q: What is your proudest moment?

A: Attending COP15 as part of the South African Delegation as a youth representative. Following COP15, I worked closely with government to plan and execute the 30×30 Implementation Workshop.

 

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: The lack of urgency that exists due to politics.   

             

Join in the MPA Day celebrations in 2024

 

Join in on all the MPA Day 2024 action by visiting  MPA Day for updated events and activities. Join in the discussions around MPAs on Instagram @marineprotectedareassa, Twitter @MPAsSA1 or Facebook Marine Protected Areas SA @MPASouthAfrica.

 

MPA Day Webinar Registration Link: https://events.teams.microsoft.com/event/316f6e61-9e40-468c-b2cc-70532cd70fd8@3820702a-e319-4f37-a945-a25afac01c10

 

The partners involved in MPA Day are Two Oceans Aquarium, Flow Communications, Olivia Jones Communications, WildOceans (a programme of WildTrust), WWF South Africa, CapeNature, Adventure Mania, Mission Blue, HELCOM, Ezemvelo-KZN Wildlife, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Save Our Seas Shark Centre and others.