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Biggest MPA Day yet welcomes more marine champions in the fight for ocean health

On 1 August 2023, the third annual Marine Protected Area Day (MPA Day) was hosted across several venues in South Africa, with global celebrations joining this year to make it the biggest MPA Day yet! In addition to extending the number of host venues and participants, MPA Day extended into a week of ocean-based activities, all sharing the message of MPA protection and support.

“We’d like to thank everyone who organised, participated in, and celebrated MPA Day this year,” commented Dr Judy Mann, Founder of MPA Day, and the Executive of Strategic Projects at The Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation. “From its inception to now, we have already seen a growth in awareness around MPAs and their role in, not only ocean health but the health of the entire planet. We are excited to keep this momentum going particularly as we work towards the 30×30 target – protecting 30% of the planet by 2030.”

Dr Mann added that it was the energy and commitment of the core team that made MPA Day 2023 so incredible.

A week of activities to celebrate MPA Day 2023!

South Africa’s 41 Marine Protected Areas were in the spotlight on the Twitter (X) platform for this year’s MPA Day Twitter Chat. With a reach of 10 million individuals from many different countries, this year’s Twitter Chat was the biggest yet.  

This was followed by the MPA Live Online Tour which let people experience the wonder of South Africa’s iconic MPAs from the comfort of home through an incredible virtual tour. Participants enjoyed live crossings that allowed them to meet the people, check out the animals, and better understand the activities taking place in MPA conservation.

Tanzania joined in the MPA Day celebration with the Marine Parks and Reserve Unit (MPRU) Tanzania Virtual Meeting. The webinar brought together high-level participants from various levels of government, several NGOs, MPA managers, ecotourism operators, and aquaculture and fisheries stakeholders for a fruitful discussion on MPA benefits and challenges.

Anglers and scientists then shared insights into the effectiveness, as well as the pros and cons, of MPAs during the Webinar for Recreational Anglers. Organised by Dr Bruce Mann from the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban, panellists included Warren Potts, Professor of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science at Rhodes University; Pierre de Villiers, Senior Manager at CapeNature; Robert Kyle, Environmental Officer at the South African Shore Angling Association; and Donovan Solomon, President of the South African Underwater Fishing Federation were among the day’s speakers.

“Don’t wait for government and managers – recreational anglers can play a far stronger role in supporting MPAs and making them work,” said John Rance, from the Border Deep Sea Angling Association.

On the KZN South Coast, Ocean Festival Activities around Aliwal Shoal MPA were in full swing with participants heading to Scottburgh Beach for a series of ocean-based activities. This included a beach clean-up and beach walk from Illovo River to Happy Wanderers Beach. Joined by scientists from the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR), walkers collected water and sand samples for analysis and litter along the way. Ocean Festival also collaborated 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, with a marine census conducted by walkers and participants of the surfski paddle race on the day.

Children are an important part of the MPA Day programme and exciting activities were hosted by Adventure Mania in Sodwana Bay. Local children were treated to a day exploring the rock pools, playing ocean-related games and learning more about these special places. In the Western Cape, the NRF-SAEON Egagasini Node conducted workshops and community meetings to celebrate and create awareness of MPAs with audiences from both near coast and inland, school groups and communities.

Kelp Night at the Two Oceans Aquarium was an immersive experience for guests who were treated to kelp-based canapes and cocktails provided by The Kelp Shack and Blackwood Spirits while getting unique insights on MPAs. Speakers included Dr Jannes Landschoff, Marine Biologist, Filmmaker, and Naturalist who is the scientific mind behind Sea Change Project’s endeavours as a research affiliate at Stellenbosch University. Coastal Forager and Educator,

Roushanna Gray shared her passion for the edible landscape through immersive educational experiences, connection, and creativity. Finally, author, environmental journalist, and storyteller Leonie Joubert offered first-hand insight into how MPAs help biodiversity thrive.

SANParks hosted an event at their Table Mountain National Park office where students, rangers and invited guests engaged in a captivating panel discussion with Craig Foster and Swati Thiyagarajan from the Sea Change Project and Ezekiel Kosa and Dr Alison Kock from SANParks. A short film, directed by Swati Thiyagarajan, featuring the Table Mountain National Park MPA, was launched (

On 3 August, Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) Unlocking Nature saw MPA Day Founder, Dr Judy Mann, speak on the topic Why do South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas matter?

While, on 5 August, families flocked to the Dalebrook Tidal Pool Treasure Hunt hosted by Two Oceans Aquarium. At Dalebrook Tidal Pool, which is part of the Table Mountain National Park MPA, families searched for colourful anemones, split-fan kelp, spiky urchins, tiny sea stars, the odd octopus, and more marine life.

CapeNature broadcast the four-part video series Chronicles of the Coast on 3, 4, 7, and 8 August which focused on topics such as partnerships, the use of science for coastal and marine conservation, combatting crime within the marine environment, and the Betty’s Bay marine protected area.

Then on Saturday, 5 August, it was the Youth4MPAs Film Screening, Discussion and Reflection – a short-film screening of Empatheatre’s Lalela uLwandle (Listen to the Ocean), an open discussion and reflection on South Africa’s MPAs and what they mean to the youth.

This same day, KZN South Coast ocean enthusiasts including surfers and scuba divers gathered out at the backline for a thanksgiving ritual by casting flowers and leaves into the ocean during a paddle out, organised by KMOS Oceanic Conservation NPO. Local community NGO Keep Scottburgh Beautiful was also there with bags and gloves, encouraging beachgoers to participate in an impromptu beach clean-up.

To find out more about the MPA Day 2023 action, visit Keep updated by following Instagram @marineprotectedareassa, Twitter @MPAsSA1, Facebook Marine Protected Areas SA @MPASouthAfrica, YouTube MPA Day @mpaday2219, TikTok or LinkedIn MPA Day. Follow the hashtags #MPADay #letstalkMPAs.

The partners leading MPA Day this year were Two Oceans Aquarium, Flow Communications, Olivia Jones Communications, WWF-SA, Cape Nature, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and NRF-SAEON.