Take a Survey Chapel 06 Nov 2019 Oral Presentations | Moderated Discussion
Parallel B - Chapel 11:00 - 13:00

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) expansion in South Africa Take a Survey
11:00 - 11:15

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have become recognised as a handy instrument in the management of fisheries and conserving marine biodiversity resources. The conservation status of both ecologically and economically important species has been a matter needing attention. With the advancing technology, the footprint of existing and emerging ocean economic sectors is likely to increase, affecting marine ecosystems services. Considering that the marine environment also plays a significant role in regulating air quality, ocean acidification, influencing rainfall and mitigating climate change, ocean protection is thus a constituted requirement. The recent declaration of a network of 20 inshore and offshore MPAs is evidence of South Africa's commitment to not only conserving our marine area estate but also to sustainable development. The new network provides significant protection of offshore ecosystem types which host some of the country's unique marine biodiversity habitat. South Africa's marine area protection has shifted from 0.4% to 5.4% and makes provision for the protection of 90% of habitat types. Although the increase in South Africa's marine protection is a significant milestone, management of these MPAs remains an issue of concern. Despite the progress made as a result of efforts by MPA management authorities, MPA management reports have found that there are persistent management challenges. The additional 5% protection is anticipated to inherit these challenges. Management recommendations state that protected areas found to have no value to the protected areas estate of South Africa should lose their protected area status. Prior to addressing aspirations of reaching 10% coastal and marine protection by 2020, there ought to be interventions to address the current challenges such as increasing budgets and staff, developing an understanding and support for MPAs amongst key government departments, and the need to update management objectives and plans, as these have been identified as the main barriers to sound management.

A characteristic macrobenthic community within the recently proclaimed uThukela Marine Protected Area, South Africa Take a Survey
11:15 - 11:30

Marine benthic habitats, and the organisms that reside there, are vulnerable to direct habitat destruction and indirect anthropogenic activities such as pollution or freshwater flow reduction to habitats that require coastal connectivity. To reduce threats to these and other important ecosystems, they should be conserved through the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This study occurred within the uThukela Marine Protected Area, one of 20 new MPAs recently promulgated in the South African MPA network. This unique system is off the largest river on the east coast and its ecosystem attributes are significantly reliant on river outflow. The project aim is to contribute to the baseline information of this MPA through expanding our knowledge of the macrobenthic community and the abiotic factors influencing community distribution. Replicated benthic grab samples were collected along coast-perpendicular transects on the uThukela shelf, representing distance from shore and increasing depth. Numbers of taxa (identified to the lowest taxonomic level possible), abundances, and functional traits were noted. Multivariate analyses determined that uThukela shelf macroinvertebrates represent many different taxa but in low abundances. Communities are primarily distributed according to sediment grain sizes, and exhibit trait differences in the different sediment habitats. Polychaetes (mainly facultative detritivores) constitute 50% of the macrobenthic community abundance on the uThukela shelf, with crustaceans and molluscs also appearing in high abundances. These detritivores rely on organic matter and muddy substrates deposited on to the shelf by the uThukela river, but adaptive feeding behaviour allows dietary shifts when conditions do not favour optimal deposition. Macrobenthic communities are vital in the functional success of any marine ecosystem; particularly the uThukela system where previous studies have indicated macrobenthos as the most significant functional trophic compartment. These findings originate from recent samples collected prior to the protection of uThukela, thereby contributing to uThukela MPA baseline information.

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) assessment of demersal fish communities along the continental shelf of central KwaZulu-Natal: Providing support to marine spatial planning Take a Survey
11:30 - 11:45

The shallow water fish communities of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have been well documented by underwater visual census studies using scuba diving, however, studies on deeper fish assemblages (those at depths greater than 30 m) on the KZN continental shelf have been largely restricted to trawl and line-fishing surveys. This study makes use of single-camera baited remote underwater video systems (mono-BRUVs) to provide an in situ examination of fish communities on sand, mixed reef and reef substrates between the depths of 35 and 100 m. The BRUV deployments formed part of the Biodiversity Surrogacy and Marine Spatial Solutions projects and provided species composition and relative abundance data for the fish communities. Based on physical characteristics, the KZN shelf was divided into several biozones for the Biodiversity Surrogacy project. The BRUV data forms one of the components that aim to determine if these are suitable proxies for patterns of biodiversity. This research also seeks to determine if substrate type and depth play a significant role in the distribution and composition of fish communities as part of the Marine Spatial Solutions project. From the 200 useable videos a total of 119 fish species were identified, down to species level where possible. Biozones, substrate type and depth were statistically analysed to determine if they had a significant effect on fish composition. This study has the potential to provide support for the newly implemented uThukela Banks Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the Aliwal Shoal MPA expansion; as well as to assist in future marine spatial planning efforts focused on the KZN shelf. Future BRUV studies could be conducted for similar study designs, as well as to examine the effectiveness of the implemented MPAs.

Mapping the human-wildlife conflict around shark nets Take a Survey
11:45 - 12:00

Shark attacks and the programmes that aim to prevent them cause conflict between humans and wildlife on multiple levels. For example, in KwaZulu-Natal between 1940 – 1960, sharks injured or killed 44 people, impacting not only the victims but also the tourism industry that many rely on. Humans responded with a culling programme targeting 14 shark species to protect bathers. This programme also kills harmless species unintentionally. Many apex predators, sharks included, are endangered or vulnerable to extinction. Mapping such human-wildlife conflict is the first step to managing it. We explored the knowledge and attitudes of various (human) stakeholders, focusing on the institutions most closely involved. We conducted semi-structured interviews with ten representatives from KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (Sharks Board), the uMhlathuze Municipality, the provincial department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo). The Sharks Board and Ezemvelo representatives know that the shark nets are fishing for sharks, but the other stakeholders perceive the nets as barriers or do not know how they work. There is concurrence on the pros of shark nets in terms of the psychological reassurance they provide to bathers; the cons are described in various ways: loss of marine life, the indiscriminate nature of the nets, and the great operational expense. In terms of desired changes, many would remove the nets completely, the Sharks Board respondents would like to reduce bycatch, while others would "scale back" and "use them during summer only". Levels of trust of the Sharks Board were generally high: "they are the experts", "we use what they give us". The lack of knowledge of closely-involved stakeholders (not just the general public) suggests a clearer message is required. This, together with the high levels of trust, suggest that the Sharks Board rather than the stakeholders themselves could be a leverage point for change.

Complex habitats give rise to multiple species and biological traits of marine infauna of the KwaZulu-Natal shelf Take a Survey
12:00 - 12:15

Although appearing uniform, marine soft sediments are structurally complex habitats to macrobenthic communities. Furthermore, the organisms themselves, enhance the complexity through activities such as bioturbation and burrowing. Previous studies focused on macrobenthic community structure, distribution, functional diversity and sediment distribution, but disregarded the relation between habitat types and inhabitants to these habitats, highlighting the need for a holistic spatial planning strategy focusing on biotopes - the association of various biota to different environments. This study is the first attempt to integrate biology, geology and the environment into a region-specific seafloor habitat classification on the east coast of South Africa. A range of sampling technologies and analysis techniques were used across a depth gradient of 40 – 230 m, at 43 stations on the KwaZulu-Natal shelf (KZN). A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used for video recordings of habitat type and fauna on the seafloor (epifauna), a drop-camera for still photography with a quadrat stand for quantified visual assessment of habitats, and sediment grab-sampling for sediment and infaunal (invertebrates within the sediment) assessment. Our findings showed that using visual methods only, limits the full ambit of soft sediment habitats accessible by macrobenthos, as they under-report biodiversity by only revealing epibenthic characteristics rather than the in-sediment habitat. In this area, these have proven to be significantly more diverse. Thus, it is important to integrate multiple methods for identifying and characterising the seafloor habitats of unconsolidated sediments, followed by validation with actual benthic community attributes. KZN shelf macrobenthic communities reflect a broad range of habitats and biotopes unique to the east coast of South Africa. This study provides baseline information for regional marine spatial planning and contributes to national conservation and assessment schemes such as the Marine National Biodiversity Assessment and Marine Protected Area networks within South Africa's Operation Phakisa framework.

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Department of Environmental Affairs
South African Association for Marine Biological Research
University of KwaZulu-Natal; Oceanographic Research Institute
University of the Witwatersrand
South African Association for Marine Biological Research; University of KwaZulu-Natal
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WildTrust - WildOceans

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