Pretoria — With the international community celebrating World Oceans Day today, South Africa has taken note of the strides made in Operation Phakisa to boost the economy.
Speaking at the Oceans Conference in New York on Wednesday, Environmental Affairs Minister, Dr Edna Molewa said South Africa's grand plan to make the oceans work for economic growth has boosted job creation, in line with the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP).
Nearly three years since its inception, South Africa's Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy is making inroads and growing the aquaculture sector.
Through the oceans economy, 2 000 additional tons of fish have been produced. This is a 35% increase for the sector, while a contribution of R500 million has been made to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The oceans economy is one of the three streams of Operation Phakisa and takes the country closer to unlocking the potential of South Africa's oceans, which have the potential to contribute up to R177 billion to the GDP and create over one million new jobs by 2033.
Since its launch by President Jacob Zuma in July 2014, Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy has made substantial progress.
South Africa has, to date, unlocked a total of R17.7 billion in investment through the Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy process in the five initially identified areas, which are offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, marine manufacturing and transport, oceans governance and tourism. In addition, 6 952 jobs have been created.
Minister Molewa said South Africa has an ocean space that is greater than the country's land territory, which makes it a resource that needs to be carefully managed.
The South African ocean region is globally recognised as unique and a hotspot of marine biodiversity, with over 10 000 marine species.
The region, however, is at a unique crossroads. The Atlantic, Southern and Indian Ocean's fishing grounds are among the healthiest worldwide, and coastal tourism is among the biggest income earners for many countries.
Ports and other coastal infrastructure are growing in importance and the region is crossed by some of the world's main shipping lanes. Emerging prospects of oil and gas development offer unprecedented opportunities for growth.
Minister Molewa cautioned that the accompanying challenges are just as great, with a high risk of environmental and socio-economic impacts.
"Nevertheless, the prospect for a vibrant, sustainable blue economy is on our doorstep and the framing of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] provides both a vision and focused goals and targets for balancing economic, social and environmental aims, to bring benefits for the people of the region," said the Minister.
Minister Molewa spoke out against pollution, saying 80% of all marine pollution stems from activities carried out on land.
The Minister said more effort can be focused on tackling land-derived pollution.
The Department of Environmental Affairs is mandated, among others, to manage and protect South Africa's coastal water quality and support all beneficial uses of coastal water such as recreation, fishing, aquaculture and desalination.
"Considering the target on reducing marine pollution, we realise that tackling land-based sources of marine pollution will require the challenging but necessary collaboration with a variety of sectors and user groups. We have also optimised our efforts to handle this important matter through our regional partnerships," said Minister Molewa.
World Oceans Day is celebrated annually on 8 June and has a history spanning over two decades. This year's theme is 'Our Oceans, Our Future: Focusing on encouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future'.