In August 2008, the Mozambican government submitted the Marine Reserve to UNESCO for inclusion in its tentative list of properties to be considered for World Heritage Site nomination during the ensuing years. On 14 July 2009, the government declared a 678 km² marine protected area, stretching from Ponta do Ouro in the south to the Maputo River Mouth in Maputo Bay in the north. The Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve stretches three nautical miles into the Indian Ocean and includes Inhaca Island and Portuguese Island.
The Marine Reserve has a rich diversity of marine life and is the most important leatherback and loggerhead turtle nesting ground along the Mozambican coast. Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtles and classified as critically endangered by the IUCN, while loggerhead sea turtles have been classified as endangered.
The Marine Reserve is part of the Ponta do Ouro-Kosi Bay TFCA (Mozambique/South Africa), Africa's first marine TFCA and also part of the Lubombo TFCA. The Marine Reserve adjoins the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa, a World Heritage Site.
The turtle monitoring season ran from October 2010 to April 2011 and started again in October 2011. During this time Reserve management and turtle monitors undertook vehicle and foot patrols of the turtle nesting sites, the primary goal being to protect the nesting females and their eggs and also to monitor the number of nesting females. In the course of these patrols, the monitors also collected data on the turtles, including how many of them had been tagged, the size of the animals, whether they were laying eggs or not and, if the animals were not sighted, how many tracks there were. During the hatching stage, the monitors noted the number of eggs hatched, the number not hatched and dead hatchlings. Genetic samples from both species were also collected to try and ascertain how many different genetic pools there are.
This year 46 community members were appointed as monitors to assist with the marine turtle monitoring. They were divided into groups of three and walked about 20 km per night collecting data on the turtles. Their presence is considered vital for the protection of the turtles as no turtles have been poached since they started with their patrols.
A number of organisations are actively supporting the protection of the turtles and the Marine Reserve management's endeavours. These include Assoçiação para Investigação Costeira e Marinha (Association for Coastal and Marine Research), Centro Terra Viva, Pierre Lombard and his family, the Machangulo Group, Dolphin Encountours and White Pearl Resorts.
In addition to the turtle monitoring, a coral reef monitoring project was initiated on five reefs to monitor certain marine indices and marine life interaction with divers. Data recorded on five southern reefs focused on benthic composition, motile invertebrates, reef fish and the underwater behaviour of divers. The final report indicates a clear and remarkable deterioration of the condition of the coral communities, related to climate change factors and not any specific human cause.
The Reserve’s highlight of the year happened on 17 May 2011, when Mr Fernando Sumbana, Mozambique’s Minister of Tourism, officially opened the Marine Reserve headquarters. The Turing Foundation had funded a house for the marine manager as well as the construction of the headquarters, consisting of an office, a laboratory, marine guard dormitories and a lounge.
Another very positive development for the Reserve was the approval of its management plan and community action plan by the Matutuine District Advisory Council, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry for the Coordination of Environmental Affairs.
Closer to home and as part of its continual interaction with and support of the local communities, the Marine Reserve team started a school at Ponta Milibangalala, with marine guards and scouts acting as teachers working in two shifts, providing education to children and adults alike.