Source: Business Live
Author: Carol Browner
Eight years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people, pouring 5-million barrels of oil into the ocean and contaminating more than 1,700km of US coastal wetlands and beaches.
It was one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history.
In the following months, while oil continued to gush into the Gulf, I was tasked as then president Barack Obama’s director of energy and climate change policy with dealing with the aftermath.
I heard heart-breaking stories of communities and businesses suffering enormous and irreparable losses. I hope no other country ever has to endure what I witnessed that terrible summer, but history has a habit of repeating itself if its lessons are not heeded.
I served on the Global Ocean Commission, a panel of world leaders concerned about the future of oceans. At a meeting in Cape Town the group listened to South Africans’ concerns.
SA has vast expanses of precious marine ecosystems and its oceans provide food security and new jobs to a growing ecotourism sector.
The commission came to understand that there is strong support across the country for ocean protection. SA can become a beacon for sustainable development of its oceans but it should not let short-term greed overshadow its long-term protection goals.
The health and livelihoods of the millions of South Africans who rely on fishing and other ocean-dependent industries will be affected by decisions taken by the government now.
Two years ago SA appeared to be on a fast track to expand ocean protection when the government announced it would create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs).
It was one of the first steps in an inspirational plan to unlock the economic potential of the ocean under Operation Phakisa.
These new MPAs would increase the proportion of SA’s ocean under protection tenfold, from the lamentable current level of less than 0.5% to about 5%. They would also put the country on track to achieving its existing international commitment of protecting 10% of the ocean by 2020. Why have these MPAs not materialised?
Read full article