Africa’s largest network of marine protected areas, has been announced by the central African nation of Gabon.
Marine protected areas, or MPAs are stretches of ocean where harmful activities such as oil and gas exploration and certain types of fishing are restricted, or ships are required to slow down so they don’t hit whales. They can be close to shore or far from land on the high seas.
The new African network of protected area will consist of 20 marine parks and aquatic reserves and will protect 26 percent of Gabon’s territorial seas and extend across 20,500 square miles (53,000 square kilometres).
The vast area is home to a wide variety of threatened marine life, including many species of whales and dolphins.
Fishing is one of the biggest problems for whales and dolphins and the Gabon government is looking to create a protected area that has the most sustainable fisheries management plan in West Africa —an area infamous for overfishing and abuses by foreign fleets. The MPA will have separate zones have been established for commercial and artisanal fishing fleets, in an effort to restore sustainable fishing.
A massive 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. Yet only a little more than 5% of the ocean is protected. WDC is working with governments, international bodies, local communities, scientists and other stakeholders to locate, design and implement protected areas in the places whales and dolphins need them most.