Effective management of marine protected areas (MPAs) is crucial in ensuring the conservation of vulnerable species, habitats and ecosystems, and the continued benefits for people.

Working closely with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, WWF developed a Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) to assess and report on the progress of MPAs in South Africa.

Every five years, since 2009, WWF has been using the METT to evaluate how South Africa’s MPAs are managed and where improvement is required. This is done in consultation with government and various MPA management authorities (conservation agencies).

The SA MPA METT 3 report: State of marine protected area management effectiveness in South Africa presents the results of the most recent assessment that was conducted with managers and staff of 22 MPAs and three island nature reserves in 2018.

Unlike the previous METT reports, which provided detailed instructions by providing a one-way approach to identifying and resolving management effectiveness deficiencies, the 2018 METT, also referred to as METT 3, highlights the priority areas for each of the MPAs.

It uses a scoring system incorporating the colours of a traffic light (green, orange and red) to highlight areas where the MPA management authority is required to take urgent action. Red shows priority areas, while orange denotes areas that need basic management, and green is for optimally managed areas.

The areas include anything from funding, staff capacity, staff knowledge about cultural heritage and biodiversity and working with researchers to human resources and health and safety, to restoration of degraded areas.

The report states the barriers and highlights key areas that each MPA should address to ensure that they meet their objectives and maintain effectively managed MPAs. These are:

  • Adequate funding, staffing and resources
  • Extensive monitoring to inform adaptive MPA management
  • Improved public awareness
  • Effective law enforcement
  • Improved cultural heritage management

“The results presented in this report will help the conservation agencies who are responsible for managing the MPAs to quickly understand the major challenges and take the necessary steps that are recommended in the report to improve their processes. We hope that this will also encourage more collaboration within the management authorities in addressing issues and taking the next steps”, says Craig Smith who is a Senior Manager for WWF’s marine programme.

WWF coordinates the MPA Forum, and this is an ideal platform where MPA managers and staff, and the government can meet regularly, compare experiences, learn, and network with each other.

“This METT Report is designed as a tool for MPAs to use to address urgent management effectiveness challenges through collaboration and dynamic problem-solving over time. This structured approach should ultimately result in optimal management effectiveness across the entire South African MPA network,” says WWF’s Robin Adams, Manager for the South African Marine Protected Areas Network.

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