South Africa’s coastal environment is a rich and diverse national asset that provides economic and social opportunities for its coastal communities. South Africa is a maritime nation with jurisdiction over one of the largest exclusive economic zones in the world, at 1.5 million square km. Therefore, our ocean represents a significant asset for current and future generations of South Africans. South Africa has experienced a gradual increase in the use and exploitation of its marine resources, which has contributed to economic growth and promises greater economic development opportunities. To keep reaping the benefits of its ocean and marine resources, South Africa needs to sustainably manage its ocean. The challenge for South Africa is how best to encourage research, investment and use of our ocean resources in order to contribute to job creation and economic upliftment while at the same time maintaining its environmental integrity.
In South Africa, a general approach has been to follow sectoral management strategies with clear environmental guidelines. There is a growing recognition that this sectoral approach does not allow for maximizing economic opportunities, ensuring environmental protection, or increasing our understanding of the ocean space. This recognition has led many maritime states to adapt their ocean management approaches to better coordinate, monitor and regulate human use in their maritime zones. It has been clearly demonstrated that the adoption of a coordinated sectoral management approach to the ocean space can support and stimulate both economic and environmental sectors. South Africa is fortunate in that the existing environmental regulatory framework has already identified the need for coordinated sectoral management.
Several ocean management tools have been identified such as Marine Spatial Planning and Spatial Planning and Land Use to lay a groundwork for the advancement of sustainable resource management objectives in the country. It is envisaged that well-executed Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) will lead to improved knowledge and understanding of the ocean from an economic, social and environmental perspective.
A new Land-Sea Integration demonstration project titled ‘Support for a Coordinated Ocean and Coastal Ecosystem Management Approach in South Africa’ was launched in July 2022. It aims to enable a shift from traditional sectoral management to a coordinated and integrated ocean and coastal management system that aligns economic sector strategies with sustainable development approaches. It also aims to drive the development of three integrated Oceans and Coasts site plans as demonstration projects to contribute to the larger implementation of South Africa’s Marine Spatial Planning Framework and the National Coastal Management Programme (NCMP).
This project will also foster connections between the project and the national realization of a broader framework and strategy for coordination and integration of coastal and marine spatial planning through three demonstrations sites, the establishment of a coastal planning scheme and the production of assessment reports and a GIS tool for data management. This project will also be enhancing public awareness on coastal and marine spatial planning. These interventions all support the aspirations of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy- a South African initiative designed to fast-track implementation of solutions on critical development issues such as sustainably enhancing the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans.
The three pilot sites will provide lessons learnt for the South African planning and management regime that could potentially be replicated in the region. These lessons learnt will support the South African government initiative in developing planning and integrated plans at district levels through the District Delivery Model. eThekwini is one (1) out of the four (4) metropolitan municipalities along the coast, and King Cetshwayo District Municipality and Umkhanyakude are two (2) out of the twelve (12) district municipalities along the coast of South Africa. The implementation of this project will lead to the preparation of policy briefs that will inform decision-making, policy, and strategy development.
The initiative is being executed by the Benguela Current Convention (BCC), Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment with financial support from the Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme Policy Harmonization and Institutional Reforms (SAPPHIRE) project. The SAPPHIRE project is executed by the Nairobi Convention Secretariat and implemented by UNDP with financial support from the Global Environment Facility.
For more on SAPPHIRE’S demonstration projects, visit this page.