Benguela Cur­rent Health Check

A sus­tain­able Benguela Cur­rent ecosys­tem is the lifeblood of the ‘Ocean Econ­omy’ on South Africa’s West Coast – sup­port­ing fish­eries, tourism and recre­ation, and thou­sands of jobs. Like any liv­ing sys­tem, it needs reg­u­lar health check-ups, and sig­nif­i­cant

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By Dr Sa­man­tha Petersen. About the Au­thor: Dr Sa­man­tha Petersen is the Project Leader at the Benguela Cur­rent Com­mis­sion.

The Cape Town work­shop on 23-24 March 2017 formed part of a project by the Benguela Cur­rent Con­ven­tion (BCC) to strengthen the abil­ity of mem­ber states – Namibia, An­gola and South Africa – to mon­i­tor the health of the Benguela Cur­rent ecosys­tem in their own coun­tries, as well as im­ple­ment­ing an in­te­grated ap­proach to sus­tain­able ecosys­tem man­age­ment across na­tional bound­aries.

Sci­en­tists, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, busi­ness and civil so­ci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives dis­cussed how best to mea­sure and mon­i­tor both the eco­nomic value and en­vi­ron­men­tal health of the di­verse and in­ter-linked ‘ecosys­tem ser­vices’ pro­vided by the ocean and coastal en­vi­ron­ment. The work­shop also aimed to iden­tify gaps in cur­rent mon­i­tor­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and data, ca­pac­ity and re­source needs, and how to re­solve po­ten­tial con­flict­ing uses in fu­ture.

This is vi­tal to main­tain­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity of the eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits to the peo­ple who rely on the ecosys­tem. For South Africa, this is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant, given the fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing the mar­itime econ­omy through Oper­a­tion Phak­isa, which has ear­marked a num­ber of di­verse projects for the West Coast.

The real suc­cess of the work­shops was that we achieved wide­spread rep­re­sen­ta­tion from gov­ern­ment and NGOs in sec­tors in­clud­ing min­ing, petroleum, en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment, fish­eries and aqua­cul­ture. From the level of en­gage­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion and the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude of the stake­hold­ers, it was clear that all want to work to­gether to achieve the same thing – to op­ti­mise the value of oceans to so­ci­ety over the long-term.

This bodes well for the kind of co­op­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion that will be needed to man­age the di­verse re­sources and ser­vices of the Benguela Cur­rent at an ecosys­tem level, across tra­di­tional sec­tor bound­aries and gov­ern­ment de­part­ment ‘si­los’.

The pro­duc­tive waters of the Benguela Cur­rent sup­port the largest por­tion of South Africa’s com­mer­cial fish­eries, and is an im­por­tant area for smallscale fish­ing and aqua­cul­ture. The West Coast is also a hub of off­shore oil and gas ex­plo­ration, a fo­cus area for the re­de­vel­op­ment of small har­bours and coastal tourism, and home to the Sal­danha Bay In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Zone. It also has a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant con­ser­va­tion ar­eas and is at­tract­ing in­creas­ing tourism and recre­ation ac­tiv­i­ties.

A healthy marine ecosys­tem pro­vides ser­vices that have a mea­sur­able so­cial and eco­nomic value to hu­man well-be­ing. Some have di­rect a com­mer­cial value such as fish­eries, min­eral and en­ergy re­sources, and tourism as­sets, while oth­ers such as cli­mate reg­u­la­tion, recre­ational ben­e­fits and sym­bolic cul­tural or spir­i­tual uses, are more dif­fi­cult to mea­sure the value of.

Key rec­om­men­da­tions from the work­shops in both South Africa and Namibia in­cluded the need for a clear mech­a­nism to per­form ecosys­tem-based man­age­ment in an in­te­grated way across ar­eas such as en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment, reg­u­la­tion of min­ing and oil and gas ex­plo­ration, fish­eries, tourism and so on, as well as across coun­try bor­ders.

Par­tic­i­pants also iden­ti­fied the need for work­ing groups that in­cor­po­rated the di­verse sec­tors in or­der to sup­port the in­te­grated ap­proach to ecosys­tem man­age­ment, as well as the need for a cen­tral in­for­ma­tion sys­tem to serve the var­i­ous sec­tors.

The fi­nal work­shop will be held in An­gola in April. Feed­back from the work­shops in the three coun­tries, to­gether with the project team’s re­ports on link­ages be­tween ecosys­tem ser­vices and their value, will con­trib­ute to de­vel­op­ing sys­tems for in­te­grated mon­i­tor­ing of the Benguela ecosys­tem’s health and the BCC’s plan­ning for fu­ture col­lab­o­ra­tive projects and sup­port to mem­ber states.

The Benguela Cur­rent sweeps up the South African West coast, along the en­tire Namib­ian coast­line and into An­gola. This cre­ates a Large Marine Ecosys­tem (LME) with pro­duc­tive re­sources shared by the three coun­tries. The Benguela Cur­rent Con­ven­tion signed by the three coun­tries cre­ated the first LME in the world to em­brace an ‘ecosys­tem ap­proach to ocean gover­nance’, which means manag­ing trans-bound­ary re­sources at the ecosys­tem level, rather than each coun­try act­ing alone and bal­anc­ing hu­man needs with con­ser­va­tion im­per­a­tives.

The coastal and ocean re­sources of the Benguela Cur­rent Large Marine Ecosys­tem are es­ti­mated to con­trib­ute about US$269-bil­lion an­nu­ally to the economies of Namibia, An­gola and South Africa.

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