I wish you would use all means at your disposal — Films! Expeditions! The web! New submarines! — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”  – Dr Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED wish 

South Africa is blessed with beautiful coastlines. Here is a list of the first five Hope Spots that have been launched in South Africa to conserve some of these beautifully unique coasts.

South Africa is blessed with a spectacular coastline offering a huge diversity of marine habitats and an amazing richness of marine life that offers wonderful sport and recreation opportunities for all. The internationally-recognised initiative, Hope Spots, is set to change the face of marine conservation in South Africa. This initiative affords members of the public an inclusive approach to preserving South Africa’s coastal treasures and provides terrific new opportunities for keen divers.

Dr Earle is the architect of the Hope Spot initiative, National Geographic Explorer in Residence, TED Prize Winner, recipient of 24 honourary degrees, marine conservationist, author, renowned oceanographer and arguably the world’s most famous diver.

What are Hope Spots?
Hope Spots are special conservation areas that are critical to the health of the ocean: The Earth’s blue heart. Some of these Hope Spots are already formally protected, while others still need protection. About 12% of the land around the world is now under some form of protection (as national parks, world heritage sites, monuments, etc.), while less than 3% of the ocean is protected in any way. Mission Blue is committed to changing this. Networks of Hope Spots maintain biodiversity, provide a carbon sink, generate life-giving oxygen, preserve critical habitats and allow low-impact activities like ecotourism to thrive. They are good for the ocean, which means they are good for us.  By engaging governments, businesses, schools, research organisations, universities, civil society and the media, Mission Blue hopes to effect significant changes so that future generations can thrive on a healthy planet with a healthy ocean.

South African Hope Spots
The first five Hope Spots that were launched by Dr Earle in December 2014 were: Aliwal Shoal in KwaZulu-Natal, Algoa Bay, Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and the Cape Whale Coast (Hermanus area) in the Cape provinces.

Guiding Criteria for South African Hope Spots:

  1. Scientific justification

A compelling set of scientific reasons delineate why an area should be a Hope Spot. The science indicates the geographic, geological (topographic), oceanographic, biological or conservation features that make the site such a valuable and special place.

  1. Boundaries

The geographical boundaries of each Hope Spot is clearly stipulated and states not only where the Hope Spot begins and ends but also what estuaries, catchments or islands it includes, as well as the stretches of main land coast that are included.

  1. Hope Spots need a strong conservation or sustainability imperative

An ecosystemic approach is adopted in the identification and development of each Hope Spot. Each Hope Spot uses an iconic animal, selected within a rich diversity of invertebrates, fishes, birds and marine mammals, as its brand. The Aliwal Shoal community uses a shark; Algoa Bay uses the African penguin; in Knysna the obvious choice is the sea horse; Plettenberg Bay has opted for the humpback dolphin; and in the Hermanus area the choice is the whale.

  1. Inclusive

Government, academia, businesses and the general society need to be involved inclusively with a neutral facilitator.

  1. Public support

Public participation is central to the Hope Spot programme. Civil society needs to be involved in discussions, events, competitions (e.g. a photographic competition), activities, fund raising for their own dream and the Hope Spot vision.

  1. Publicity

It is important to involve the media from the outset and even in the development phases. To this end, the use of radio, papers and TV should be written into plans from very early on.