South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs has revealed that the country has widened its marine protected areas to give protection to 90 percent of marine habitat types.

The expansion has augmented South Africa’s marine ecosystem area under protection in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone from the current 0.4 percent to 5.4 percent.

The Ocean iMPAct campaign has been launched on Wednesday to help advance the protection of the oceans around South Africa within marine-protected areas. The campaign, created by a coalition of organisations including WILDOCEANS, Ocean Unite and WWF-SA, has an overall objective of helping attain the global target of protection for 10 percent of marine areas by 2020 and pave the way for African states to support a global target of protecting at least 30 percent of oceans by 2030.

"Earlier this year we put out a call to the public to help name this new campaign, which builds on the successful 'Only This Much' campaign launched in 2018 when ocean protection was at a pitiful 0.4%," campaign lead Lauren van Nijkerk said.

The move, which is in line with South Africa's international commitments, strives to support multiple objectives for biodiversity in alignment with ocean economy goals, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) cited.

This new network of 20 marine protected areas (MPAs) will contribute to fisheries sustainability, advance marine ecotourism and help maintain resilience in ecosystems that are under stress from climate change, Zolile Nqayi, DEA spokesperson said.

The expansion has augmented South Africa's marine ecosystem area under protection in the country's Exclusive Economic Zone from the current 0.4 percent to 5.4 percent. The new MPAs represent seamounts, submarine canyons, volcanic pinnacles, and a variety of ecosystem types on the shelf, continental margin and abyss in both the Indian and Atlantic oceans, according to the DEA. They also provide the first protection for several threatened and fragile ecosystem types, including threatened mud, gravel, and shelf edge habitats and sensitive deep-water scleractinian corals, DEA noted.

South Africa's ocean space, which is one of the most varied in the world, is highly productive with rich biodiversity providing for living and non-living resources that contribute significantly to the country's economy and to job creation, as reported by Xinhua.

The MPAs contribute to growing South Africa's marine eco-tourism sector by providing undisturbed natural habitat for whales, sharks, seals, dolphins, turtles and seabirds for international and domestic tourists to experience, Zolile Nqayi said. An adequate network of MPAs also provide the basis for ongoing resilience to the impact of climate change, he said.

The new MPA network is a product of extensive consultation and negotiation with all stakeholders, which sought to ensure that the network is aligned with relevant policies and priorities for fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, as well as marine mining and oil exploration, while also protecting ecologically important areas, Nqayi added.