Leonardo DiCaprio encourages support of #OnlyThisMuch campaign for protection of SA's oceans

Oscar-winning actor, Leonardo DiCaprio has taken to Twitter to encourage support of the #OnlyThisMuch campaign for greater protection of SA's oceans.

DiCaprio, an active environmentalist when he's not shooting a film, shared a tweet encouraging his followers to learn about the campaign that is pushing for increased protection of South Africa's oceans following news that only 0.4% of South Africa's ocean regions are currently being protected.

SEE: #OnlyThisMuch: New alliance for greater care of SA's oceans pushes for 10% protection by 2020

Only This Much campaign reports that South Africa's entire Marine Protected Area network is less than one third the size of Kruger National Park.

The campaign is part of a new coalition that aims to achieve 5% protection of South Africa’s oceans within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2019, 10% by 2020, and eventually protect at least 30% of our oceans by 2030 for long-term sustainable use.

This new alliance of national and international organisations that have come together to run this campaign aim to build support for these MPAs by creating awareness of its value - and support from world-renowned individuals such as DiCaprio is a sure way to grow the campaign's global reach. 

Click here to join the campaign online.

Check out DiCaprio's post:

New alliance for greater care of SA's oceans

The alliance was launched at a World Oceans Day event hosted by Wildoceans and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) on 8 June at Ushaka Marine World.

SEE: #WorldOceanDay: 0.4% protection for SA oceans is just not enough

Dr Jean Harris of Wildoceans says that MPAs provide "ecosystem services, ocean risk mitigation, food security, ecotourism benefits, moderation of climate change, and improving resilience to impacts of other global stressors". She says that the alliance hopes to boost marine conservation in SA and "catalyse action across the region.”

The alliance is funded by Oceans 5, Ocean Unite, WWF-SA, The Green Connection, Centre for Environmental Rights and the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR).

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Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Deputy Director General Judy Beaumont says that the DEA supports the coalition.

“We appreciate any work being done that profiles the many social, economic and environmental benefits of a dynamic and relevant MPA network. This communication is key to bridging the gaps between government departments, as well as civil society and conservation entities,” says Beaumont.

‘Only This Much’

Wildoceans’ Lauren van Nijkerk says that the aim is to get African states to support a global target of 30% protection by 2030. 

DEA’s Beaumont says that “The drive to achieve a 10% (and more) MPA target aligns with South Africa’s National Development Plan outcomes and international commitments. We are all connected to the ocean in some way and therefore all have a responsibility to protect and preserve our oceans for future generations.”

At the launch of the Only This Much campaign, aquarium displays were covered up with black cloth and revealed to illustrate the limited ocean protection we currently have in South Africa, and what the potential of the ocean is if that protection is expanded.

Only This Much campaign - World Oceans Day Event.

Photo: Supplied.

A global challenge

Alex Benkenstein of SAIIA, says that the fact that ocean protection is part of the Sustainable Development Goals highlights the global nature of the challenges and opportunities related to the ocean.

“For this reason, our Institute seeks to promote cooperative responses towards developing a truly sustainable Blue Economy, and a strong MPA network, both within South Africa and beyond our borders, is an essential component of that,” says Benkenstein.

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John Duncan, Senior Manager of the Marine Programme at WWF SA says that healthy oceans support an ocean economy, and therefore “We urgently need to scale up our MPA network to secure the underlying marine ecosystems which underpin economically and ecologically sustainable development.”

Judy Mann, Conservation Strategist at SAAMBR, adds that only by working together will we be able to address the challenges facing our oceans.

Safeguarding natural heritage

Saul Roux, Legal Campaigner at the Centre for Environmental Rights, says that MPAs will safeguard our natural heritage and the ecosystems that support marine economy.

“More than two years ago the Minister of Environmental Affairs published notices and regulations, for public comment; for an ecologically representative network of 22 marine protected areas. These should be declared as a matter of urgency,” says Roux.

“This will ensure South Africa is on track to meet our international obligations and will contribute to the realisation of our Constitutional right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.”

SEE: Tsitsikamma MPA re-opening: SA’s fish stocks at risk say experts

Green Connections’ Liz McDaid says that the organisation is part of the campaign to ensure that oceans are protected to provide livelihoods for future generations. “We support at least 30% MPA goal – and all of South Africa’s affected stakeholders must be involved in such decisions,” adds McDaid.

Karen Sack, Managing Director of Ocean Unite, adds that “Marine Reserves are the insurance policies we need to buy for our Ocean planet” to help build resilience to climate change, bring back marine life, secure food, water, and air supplies, and provide job security. 

She says that SA’s President and Cabinet must meet to exceed South Africa’s international commitments to protect at least 10% of waters by 2020, to safeguard marine life for the benefit of all South Africans.

How to start protecting our oceans?

  • Join the “Only This Much” campaign and spread awareness.
  • Make ethical and sustainable seafood choices - follow WWF SASSI to check.
  • Stop buying and using plastic products. Reuse old plastic bags when shopping and invest in reusable straws.
  • Don't buy items that exploit marine life.
  • Get involved in a beach clean-up, and pick up litter whenever you see any along the coast. Read here for more information.
  • Visit Aquariums to increase your love and knowledge of marine life.