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uthukela mangroves (ph. mary basson) (1)
uThukela mangroves © Mary Basson

uThukela MPA Ecosystem-Based Management

uThukela MPA Ecosystem-based Management

Project Lead: WILDTRUST

Supporting Partners: ORRAA

Financial and Institutional Support: Blue Action Fund
Location: South Africa


WILDTRUST is leading a consortium of diverse partners, protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems in uThukela, a South African Marine Protected Area (MPA). For the project duration, stakeholders are focusing on mechanisms for MPA financing in a South African context to increase MPA management capacity and knowledge, strengthen adaptive capacity, sequester carbon while promoting climate-resilient and sustainable livelihoods. The focus on this MPA will provide internationally relevant models that use Nature-based Solutions to improve food security and resilience of  vulnerable communities. 


South Africa approved 20 new or expanded MPAs in 2019, bringing the total number in the country to 41. This network includes 50,000 km2 or 5.4 per cent of South Africa’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, there is still much work to do for South Africa to move towards the target to protect 30 per cent of oceans by 2030. The government has signalled a clear commitment to this target and has already embarked on a process to develop an Implementation Plan aimed at achieving 10 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030. Significantly increased capacity and resources are needed to achieve this, and the government is collaborating with a coalition of NGOs for assistance to leverage funding for expansion, as well as to partner on the ground to improve and ensure effectiveness of management of protected areas. 


MPAs are critical management tools that safeguard the coastal ecosystems and ocean natural capital, that many communities rely on for food security and livelihoods. They allow ecosystems to endure and quickly recover from climate hazards, while contributing to the development of sustainable blue economies. The project will conduct a series of activities to improve resources and capacity for MPA management and financing through increasing stakeholder engagement and awareness to Ecosystem-based Approaches (EbA).

Scalability and Next Steps

This 5-year project started in April 2022. As part of the first phase, WILDTRUST together with ORRAA has brought leading private finance and insurance sector partners, government representatives, community leaders, multilateral organisations, and MPA managers together in a workshop to focus on identifying sustainable finance solutions for uThukela and iSimangaliso MPAs, within the context of financing 30 per cent of South Africa’s ocean by 2030.

ORRAA is supporting WILDTRUST by executing a baseline economic valuation of the ecosystems and natural assets in the MPA and associated estuaries. Later in the project ORRAA will help implement the sustainable financing mechanisms that are identified.