South Africa is a maritime nation with jurisdiction over one of the largest exclusive economic zones in the world: the mainland EEZ stretches 370km offshore and includes 1.072.716 km2 of ocean. The country has a 3113 km long coastline that extends from Ponta do Ouro on the Mozambican border to the Orange river on the Namibian border.
ile it occupies only 2% of the world’s land surface area, South Africa is home to 10% of the world’s plant species and 7% of its reptile, bird and mammal species. Its waters harbor around 15% of the world’s marine species, with endemism rates reaching 56% for amphibians, 65% for plants and up to 70% for invertebrates, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
With such a vast EEZ and coastline – and impressive biodiversity – it comes as no surprise that the ocean is a significant cultural, environmental, and economic asset for current and future generations. Potential opportunities for further economic development, however, are yet to be better managed and reformulated.
The county has a wide range of ocean-related policies and legislations that regulate markets, activities, and operations under different sectors. However, despite the existence of many legal frameworks – such as the Integrated Coastal Management Act (ICM Act), the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA), or the White Paper on the National Environmental Management of the Ocean (NEMO) – the country has yet to develop an integrated ocean management approach. For some years now, the 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 of economic opportunities, ensuring environmental protection”, South African experts explain. An integrated approach would balance economic opportunities with maintaining environmental targets and goals.
For that, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF), with support from the Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE project, will develop three local marine and coastal development plans, which will help them to pilot a comprehensive framework and strategy for the coordination and integration of coastal and marine spatial planning. These plans will aim to coordinate the activities of marine and coastal stakeholders – such as government officials from different spheres, NGOs, academia, research institutes, universities and communities – and sectors, like tourism, fisheries, transport, renewable energy, and more. The DEFF has identified three areas to implement the pilot plans: the Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality (with a focus on the city of Durban) , the King Cetshwayo District Municipality (with emphasis on the Richards Bay area), and the Umkhyakude District Muninipality (with emphasis on the Umhlabayalingana and Isimangaliso Wetland Park areas).
The main objective is to move from a coordinated sectoral management to an integrated ocean and coastal management system and align the economic sector strategies with sustainable development approaches. Under the project, analysis will be carried out to identify gaps, challenges and opportunities in the implementation of the integrated plan. The Department expects that the results from the project can contribute to the broader implementation of South Africa´s Marine Spatial Planning Framework. Additionally, if successful, South Africa hopes that its experiences could help inform other integrated planning processes in other countries in the region – thereby helping to improve management of the Western Indian Ocean as a whole.
The Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE project promotes policy and institutional reform to help improve the management of the Western Indian Ocean LME. It will develop capacity among governments, communities, partners, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector in sustainable resource management and ocean governance.