Domestic Laws and Regulations
Marine Spatial Planning Act, 2018
This act provides a framework for marine spatial planning in South Africa. It also provides for the development of marine spatial plans and for institutional arrangements for the implementation of these plans and the governance of the ocean by multiple sectors.
Aquaculture Development Bill, 2018
The Bill was introduced to Parliament in South Africa on 22 June 2018. The main objectives are to promote the responsible aquaculture development in South Africa; promote development and management of an aquaculture sector that is ecologically, socially and economically sustainable.
Sea Birds and Seals Protection Act 46 of 1973
The act provides for the control over certain islands and rocks; for the protection, and the control of the capture and killing, of sea birds and seals; and for the disposal of the products of sea birds and seals and for any other related matters to the killing, pursuit or capture of seals.
The Act outlines a regulatory framework for fishing in the fishing zone of South Africa and provides for ample powers of regulation by the Minister of Environment Affairs and Water Affairs. The Minister may determine the general policy and make provision for various matters which relate to sea fishery, including promotion of fishing industry (Part VII), levies, licensing, protection of fish, marine reserves, restrictions on quantities which may be caught, control over disposal and export of fish.
National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act 24 of 2008
An Act to establish a system of integrated coastal and estuarine management in the Republic, including norms, standards and policies, in order to promote the conservation of the coastal environment, and maintain the natural attributes of coastal landscapes and seascapes, and to ensure that development and the use of natural resources within the coastal zone is socially and economically justifiable and ecologically sustainable; to define rights and duties in relation to coastal areas; to determine the responsibilities of organs of state in relation to coastal areas; to prohibit incineration at sea; to control dumping at sea, pollution in the coastal zone, inappropriate development of the coastal environment and other adverse effects on the coastal environment; to give effect to South Africa’s international obligations in relation to coastal matters; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003
An Act providing for the protection and conservation of ecologically viable areas representative of South Africa’s biological diversity and its natural landscapes and seascapes; for the establishment of a national register of all national, provincial and local protected areas; for the management of those areas in accordance with national norms and standards; for intergovernmental co-operation and public consultation in matters concerning protected areas; and for matters in connection therewith.
National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act 24 of 2008
This act establishes a system of integrated coastal and estuarine management in the Republic, including norms, standards and policies, in order to promote the conservation of the coastal environment, and maintain the natural attributes of coastal landscapes and seascapes. The act also ensures that development and the use of natural resources within the coastal zone is socially and economically justifiable and ecologically sustainable. It also defines the rights and duties in relation to coastal areas; determines the responsibilities of organs of state in relation to coastal areas; prohibits incineration at sea; controls dumping at sea, pollution in the coastal zone, inappropriate development of the coastal environment and other adverse effects on the coastal environment; to give effect to South Africa’s international obligations in relation to coastal matters.
Marine Pollution (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 2 of 1986
The act provides for the protection of the sea from pollution by oil and other harmful substances discharged from ships, and for that purpose to give effect to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as amended by the Protocol of 1978.
This act provides for the maritime zones of the Republic of South Africa and for matters connected with it. The act covers territorial waters, contiguous, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the continental shelf and the Prince Edward Islands, which belong to South Africa. The latter is situated 1000 kilometres south-east of Port Elizabeth. All these zones fall within South Africa’s jurisdiction for monitoring, control and enforcement of state authority. In total, it comprises an area of assets of more than 1 million square kilometres.
Merchant Shipping (Civil Liability Convention) Act 25 of 2013
The act provides for the enactment of the International Maritime Organization protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 29 November 1969 into law.
International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 30 May 1996
The ensures adequate compensation is available to persons who suffer oil pollution damage resulting from maritime casualties involving oil-carrying ships. The Convention applies to all seagoing vessels carrying oil in bulk as cargo. The Convention places the liability for such damage on the owner of the ship from which the polluting oil escaped or was discharged. The Convention requires ships covered by it to maintain insurance or other financial security in sums equivalent to the owner’s total liability for one incident.
Merchant Shipping (International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund) Contributions Act 36 of 2013
The Merchant Shipping (International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund) Contributions Act 36 of 2013 provides for the imposition of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund Contributions Levy on persons referred to in Article 10 of the 1992 Fund Convention; provides for the manner in which the levy is determined; and provides for the levies and interest due to be paid to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund are a direct charge against the National Revenue Fund.
Marine Living Resources Act 18 of 1998
The Act provides for the conservation of the marine ecosystem, the long-term sustainable utilization of marine living resources and the orderly access to exploitation, utilization and protection of certain marine living resources; and for these purposes to provide for the exercise of control over marine living resources in a fair and equitable manner to the benefit of all the citizens of South Africa; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
Marine Pollution (Intervention) Act 64 of 1987
This act gives effect to the International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties; and to the Protocol Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Marine Pollution by Substances Other than Oil 1973.
Dumping at Sea Control Act 73 of 1980
The Act regulates the dumping of substances in the sea. Section 2 places restrictions on the loading or dumping of substances mentioned in Schedule 1 and 2 and dumping of substances in general. A special permit or a general permit authorizing dumping may be issued by the Secretary of Industries, who must consider the factors set out in Schedule 3. The Secretary may attach conditions to permits as he or she thinks fit.
International Laws and Agreements to Which South Africa is Party
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982)
Popularly known as UNCLOS, the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, this international agreement defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.
Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (Jun 2, 1964)
The international agreement seeks to further international collaboration within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty to promote and achieve the objectives of protection, scientific study, and rational use of these fauna and flora. The Measures contain a comprehensive set of rules for the conservation of wildlife. These include a prohibition on the killing, taking, molesting, etc. of any bird or mammal native to Antarctica without a permit.
Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (Jun 19, 2001)
To achieve and maintain a favorable conservation status for albatrosses and petrels. Parties undertake to adopt conservation measures and prohibit deliberate taking of, or harmful interference with, albatrosses and petrels.
International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (Ballast Water Management Convention or BWM Convention)
This is a 2004 international maritime treaty which requires signatory flag states to ensure that ships flagged by them comply with standards and procedures for the management and control of ships’ ballast water and sediments. The Convention aims to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another and halt damage to the marine environment from ballast water discharge, by minimizing the uptake and subsequent discharge of sediments and organisms. From 2024 all ships are required to have approved Ballast Water Management Treatment System, according to the approved standard.
Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (1993)
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) is a Regional fisheries management organization and International Organization with the purpose of managing the stocks of the critically endangered Southern bluefin tuna. It ensures through appropriate management, the conservation and optimum utilization of southern bluefin tuna.
Convention on the Conservation and Management of Fishery Resources in the South East Atlantic Ocean (2000)
The South East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO) is an organization that maintains controls overfishing and fishing related acts in the Southeastern Atlantic Ocean. As an intergovernmental regional fisheries management organization, it is responsible for ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fishery resources (excluding migratory fish stocks) in the high seas of southeast Atlantic Ocean, within the Convention Area.
International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (1969)
The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is an intergovernmental organization responsible for the management and conservation of tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. ICCAT is committed to maintaining tuna populations at levels which permit the maximum sustainable catch for food and other purposes and ensure the effective exploitation of those fishes in a manner consistent with that catch. The Convention applies to “all waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including the adjacent Seas.”
Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1959)
The objective of this Convention is the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. It does so by establishing the regulation of any harvesting and associated activities in the area and ensures that harvesting of any marine species in the Antarctic is conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, while preventing the decrease in the size of any harvested population to levels below those which ensure its stable recruitment; maintain the ecological relationships between the harvested, dependent and related populations of Antarctic marine living resources and the restoration of depleted populations to sustainable levels; and preventing changes or minimization of the risk of changes in the marine ecosystem which are not potentially reversible over two or three decades.
Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1978)
The Convention is aimed at protecting the stocks of Antarctic seals from commercial exploitation. The Convention establishes a framework to protect and enable scientific research on Antarctic seals and to maintain a satisfactory balance in the Antarctic ecosystem.
Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas (1958)
The agreement is designed to solve, through international cooperation, the problems of conservation of living resources of the high seas, because some of these resources are in danger of being overexploited. The convention also underlines the rights and duty of States on the living resources of the high Seas with the major concern of providing a maximum supply of food and other marine products. States must consider measures to allow a sustainable exploitation of the high seas.
Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone 1958
The Convention describes the extent of a coastal State sovereignty beyond its land territory and its internal waters, to a belt of sea adjacent to its coast, described as the territorial sea.
Convention on the High Seas (1958)
The objective is this agreement is to codify the rules of international law relating to the high seas. Signatory States undertake to draw up regulations to prevent pollution of the sea by oil from ships and pipelines or resulting from the exploration and exploitation of the seabed (art. 24). They further agree to take measures to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of radioactive waste and to cooperate with international agencies in taking such measures to prevent pollution of the seas or airspace above them resulting from radioactive materials or other harmful agents (art. 25).
Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (2009)
The Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) is the first binding international agreement to specifically target illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Its objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing by preventing vessels engaged in IUU fishing from using ports and landing their catches.
Charter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (1997) (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Comoros, Madagascar, South Africa, Seychelles)
This is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction to focus on priority areas of economic cooperation which provide maximum opportunities for development, shared interest and mutual benefits such as maritime security.
Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (1996)
This is an intergovernmental organization that co-ordinates the regulation and management of tuna in the Indian Ocean. The Agreement is open to any state that has coasts within the Indian Ocean region (or adjacent seas) as well as any state that fishes for tuna in the Indian Ocean region.
Convention on the International Maritime Organization (1958)
The convention established the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which provides a machinery for co-operation among Governments in the field of governmental regulation and practices relating to technical matters of all kinds affecting shipping engaged in international trade, and encourages the general adoption of the highest practicable standards in matters concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships. IMO also encourages the removal of discriminatory action and unnecessary restrictions by Governments affecting shipping engaged in international trade to promote the availability of shipping services to the commerce of the world without discrimination.
London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (1972)
The “London Convention” is one of the first global conventions to protect the marine environment from human activities. Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter. The protocol was amended in 1996, in which all dumping is prohibited, except for possibly acceptable wastes on the so-called “reverse list”.
Maritime Labor Convention (2006)
This is an international agreement of the International Labor Organization (‘ILO’) which sets out seafarers’ rights to decent conditions of work. It is sometimes called the ‘Seafarers’ Bill of Rights’. It applies to all seafarers, including those with jobs in hotel and other passenger services on cruise ships and commercial yachts.
International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (1985)
The convention establishes an international search and rescue (SAR) plan, so that, no matter where an accident occurs, the rescue of persons in distress at sea will be coordinated by a SAR organization and, when necessary, by co-operation between neighboring SAR organizations. The Convention also makes clear the responsibilities of Governments and requires Parties, either individually or in co-operation with other States, to establish basic elements of a search and rescue services.
International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties (1969)
The Convention affirms the right of a coastal State to take such measures on the high seas as may be necessary to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger to its coastline or related interests from pollution by oil or the threat thereof, following upon a maritime casualty.
Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation
The Convention, or Sua Act, is a multilateral treaty by which states agree to prohibit and punish behaviour which may threaten the safety of maritime navigation.
Seabed Arms Control Treaty (1972)
The treaty provides a categorical ban on the deposit of all nuclear weapons and/or related waste products into any oceanic seabed, which is the region of the ocean that is beyond 12 nautical miles from the coast.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992)
The Convention aims to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system.” It states that “such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.”
The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
Convention on Biological Biodiversity (1992)
This Convention supports South Africa to conserve biological diversity, promote the sustainable use of its components, and encourage equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Such equitable sharing includes appropriate access to genetic resources, as well as appropriate transfer of technology, considering existing rights over such resources and such technology.
The Convention places a duty on States Parties to conserve biological diversity within their jurisdiction, as well as outside their jurisdiction in certain cases (art. 4); requires States to cooperate in preserving biological diversity in areas out of national jurisdiction (art. 5); conferring responsibility on States Parties for the formulation and implementation of strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (art. 6).
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.
One of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted is Goal 14: Life below water, which aims to sustainably manage, use and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as address the impacts of ocean acidification. Learn more about SDG 14: Life below Water.
Marine Protected Areas
Target 5 of the SDG 14 is to conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information by 2020. Nairobi Convention is supporting South Africa meet the obligations under SDG Targets 14.2 and 14.5 and Aichi Target 11, besides other SDGs by publishing the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Outlook for the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region.
Marine Protected Areas
South Africa has made significant progress towards increasing the total coverage of MPAs. Currently, South Africa has proclaimed 42 MPAs covering 5.4 per cent of its Exclusive Economic Zone. These protected areas have given South Africa the opportunity to maintain its fish stocks, create new employment opportunities around tourism, and safeguard the spiritual and cultural practices that connect many South Africans to the sea. Find out more about the Marine Protected Areas in South Africa at the Nairobi Convention Dashboard here.