South Africa is one of the world’s top three mega-biodiverse nations, along with Brazil and Indonesia.
“We are thus one of the richest countries in terms of the diversity of plants and animals (marine and terrestrial) and levels of endemism. Although the immense contribution of our biodiversity to our economic, social and spiritual well-being is difficult to measure, it is generally accepted that this contribution is significant and essential to our health and well-being,” minister of environment, forestry and fisheries Barbara Creecy said.
The minister was delivering the keynote address at the opening of the 10th Oppenheimer Research Conference in Randjiesfontein, Midrand, taking place under the theme ‘Advancing Conservation Consciousness’.
“Our National Development Plan recognises this biodiversity wealth and requires us to leave future generations an environmental endowment of at least equal value to the one we have now.
“To this end, although we are not yet meeting international targets, our conservation estate is growing, both on land and at sea,” Creecy said.
SA’s ‘ocean parks’
A few months ago, 20 new Marine Protected Areas were declared. These new ‘ocean parks’ have increased South Africa’s marine ecosystem area under protection by 1 250% overnight – from 0.4% to 5.4% of the country’s oceans.
“Unlike many of our game parks, these ocean parks have been identified scientifically and provide protection to an impressive 90% of our marine habitat types.
“In terms of government priorities, these ocean parks will not only protect our rich marine biodiversity, but will also contribute to the sustainability of our fisheries and our fishing industry – a perfect example of sustainable development, evidence-based policy-making, and a valuable outcome of the Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy initiative,” the minister said.
The 10th Oppenheimer Research Conference supports ground breaking research and key partnerships bringing together some of the continent’s best stakeholders to support Africa-led, innovative research that will contribute to the advancement of environmental and allied sciences.
This is critical to reach the country’s objective of ensuring a prosperous environment for future generations.