Ocean Festival organises beach-focused activities to celebrate Marine Protected Areas Day

Ocean Festival organises beach-focused activities to celebrate Marine Protected Areas Day
Ocean Festival organises beach-focused activities to celebrate Marine Protected Areas Day

The Ocean Festival team will continue to promote a healthy ocean by celebrating MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Day on 1 August with a number of ocean-based activities and adventures. The focus will stretch from Amanzimtoti to the lower part of Scottburgh, along the length of the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area. This is just one of three MPAs found along the KZN South Coast, all of which provide protected space for marine life to thrive, thereby supporting a healthy ocean ecosystem.

 

“MPA Day helps us collectively appreciate the value of MPAs and how they mutually benefit humans and the incredible marine biodiversity they are designed to protect,” said Ocean Festival Founder, Russel Symcox. “We are very excited about building awareness of, and rallying support for our MPAs. That is why we’ve put together a series of nature-based activities to not only educate everyone but also to make a positive impact by cleaning up around the beautiful Aliwal Shoal MPA.”

 

Dr Judy Mann, Founder of MPA Day, and the Executive of Strategic Projects at The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have the Ocean Festival team and supporters joining in the MPA Day celebrations with such impactful activities around Aliwal Shoal MPA. This is an important economic driver in the KZN South Coast region attracting domestic and international tourists to our shores. We hope that others are inspired to follow in the footsteps of The Ocean Festival and organise talks and activities that create awareness around local MPAs while also celebrating their natural beauty. The team has a really exciting programme lined up and we encourage residents and visitors to Scottburgh to join in the fun!”

 

What is MPA Day?

 

Launched in South Africa in 2021, MPA Day has grown to be a globally celebrated annual event that highlights the importance of the world’s Marine Protected Areas and the need to conserve and grow them. MPAs are known as ‘game reserves of the sea’, providing a vital safe haven for marine life in key areas. MPAs are designated areas in the ocean where human activities are regulated to safeguard marine biodiversity, habitats, and cultural resources. South Africa has 42 MPAs, among them Aliwal Shoal which is not only a vital MPA but also one of the world’s top dive sites.

 

Ocean Festival MPA Day Activities

 

1.       Beach Walk

A small group from the Ocean Festival team will be joined by scientists from the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) and will walk approximately 30km along the beach from the Illovo River to Happy Wanderers Beach. They will collect water and sand samples for analysis, as well as litter, along the way.

 

2.       Surfski Paddle

There will also be a small group of surfski paddlers who will cover the same route as the walking group, but out at sea. They will collect water samples beyond the backline and conduct a census of the marine life encountered along the way from Illovo to Happy Wanderers.

 

3.       Research

Ocean Festival is collaborating with the Oceanographic Research Institute (a division of SAAMBR) and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) to assess some ocean health and biodiversity parameters. SAIAB technicians on board their research vessel, the Phakisa, will collect samples along a predetermined transect on the surfski route which will be analysed by ORI researchers as part of an ongoing study of the Aliwal Shoal MPA. This will include assessing microplastic contamination, various water quality parameters, as well as DNA barcoding of plankton samples and fish larvae to determine the presence of various species. Sand samples along the beach walk will be collected for microplastic analysis.

 

4.       Beach Clean-up

Participants of both the walk and the surfski paddle will do their bit by collecting litter along the way which will be sorted and logged.

 

5.       Virtual Tour

The Ocean Festival team will be sharing a live update from the Aliwal Shoal MPA walk on social media and the official MPA Day celebration media channels, highlighting the need for protection but also celebrating these special areas.

 

6.       Marine Census

An inshore marine census will be conducted by the beach walkers and surfski paddlers throughout the route, taking note of marine life including sea birds, fish, mammals, molluscs, and more. The information, photographic evidence, and GPS locations will then be collated and uploaded to the iNaturalist site for future comparisons.

 

Ocean Festival MPA Day Details

 

Date: 1 August 2023 – MPA Day

Time: 6am to 3pm

Where: Northern boundary to southern boundary of Aliwal Shoal MPA which is Illovo Beach to Happy Wanderers on the KZN South Coast

What: Beach walk, beach clean-up, surfski paddle, research sample collection, marine life census and virtual tour.

 

Be a part of this positive change by joining the Ocean Festival social media channels and sharing the MPA Day activities on Tuesday, 1 August. For more information, check out @theoceanfestival on Instagram and Facebook, or www.oceanfestival.co.za!

 

For more information on MPA Day 2023, visit www.mpaday.org. Join in the discussions around MPAs on Instagram @marineprotectedareassa, Twitter @MPAsSA1 or Facebook Marine Protected Areas SA @MPASouthAfrica.