Stakeholders’ perceptions about recreational events within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the South Coast of KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa
Tourism has become the second largest source of foreign exchange earnings in the least developed countries. However, tourists become attracted to features that are of environmental and conservation importance.As a global phenomenon, threats to biodiversity require innovative approaches to maintain and protect biodiversity in the interest of ecological integrity and human wellbeing. Worldwide, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are proclaimed to achievelong-term conservation of marine resources. The promulgation of laws regarding MPAs in South Africa has triggered various responses from stakeholders affected by their declaration. This study focused on perceptions of stakeholders from recreational activity providers such as fishing and scuba diving within MPAs, regarding the proposed introduction of a Marine Protected Area for the Lower South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). A mixed method research design was used. The qualitative method involved semi-structured interviews, access toparticipants for the interviews was achieved through snowball sampling. The interview sample comprised 18 people aged 30 years and above, who have first-hand experience regarding the impact of MPAs on recreational events. The quantitative component comprised 90 survey questionnaires, of which 54 were men and 36 were women, questionnaires were distributed to the members of the general population using a convenience sampling technique in the South Coast.Themain findings of this study are that some of the stakeholders participated in the decision-making process towards the proclamationof MPAs. Hence ordinary citizens were educated about MPAs and thus adhere to MPAs regulation. The evidence shows that MPAs can support tourism and recreational activities andthey can be used as a tool to enhance tourism growth and local economic development. However, poor law enforcement has made MPAs ineffective.The study concludes that local communities are positive about the value of MPAs, but their responses to MPAs are shaped by how the MPAs are implemented, their management strategies, what rights are removed, and what tourism benefits and employment opportunities are obtained/lost in the process.
Keywords: Marine Protected Areas, recreational events, marine tourism, economic development, stakeholders.