The government of the Republic of Congo has just made official the creation of the country's first three marine protected areas (MPAs). These are the MPAs of Loango and Mvassa bays, respectively in Loango and Pointe-Noire, and the extension of the maritime part of the Conkouati-Douli national park in the Kouilou department. The creation of these protected areas aims to protect biodiversity, guarantee the productivity of territorial waters and defend the interests of local communities.
Loango Bay, located 20 km north of the city of Pointe-Noire in the south-east of the Republic of Congo, is one of the first three marine protected areas (MPAs) in this Central African country. Renamed “Community Marine Reserve of Loango Bay”, it covers an area of 50,020 hectares, or 500.2 km², of which 458.80 km² is marine. The Bay of Loango is home to an important rocky area, known to be a strategic feeding ground for marine turtles. The protected area is also of international, regional and national importance, as it concentrates socio-economic issues, particularly in terms of artisanal fishing.
The creation of this MPA comes at the same time as the creation of the Mvassa site, 30 minutes south of Pointe-Noire, and the extension of the marine part of the Conkouati-Douli National Park on the Congolese coast. According to the Congolese Commission for the classification of protected areas, meeting in session from 29 to 31 August 2022, these three MPAs will make it possible to protect marine resources and the livelihoods of coastal communities, over an area of approximately 4,330 km², i.e. 12.01% of the Congo’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
A GEF-supported conservation project
The designation of the Loango and Mvassa Bay sites as marine protected areas marks the first phase of a project supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the association Renatura Congo and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The second phase of this conservation project, known as the operationalisation phase, provides for the completion of the components partially executed during the first phase, the materialisation of the marine protected areas with the establishment of basic infrastructures and the setting up of the steering and management bodies of the three MPAs.