The Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem stretches northwards in the Atlantic Ocean from South Africa along the entire coastline of Namibia into Angola. It is one of the richest ecosystems on earth, with fish stocks and other goods and services worth an estimated $54.3 billion annually. Today, however, human activities – oil and gas exploration, diamond mining, marine transport and fishing – are endangering this natural habitat on which vast marine life depends. (https://www.thegef.org/gef/node/11345)
Towards a Solution
To remedy this challenge, government leaders from Angola, Namibia and South Africa have jointly established the transboundary Benguela Current Commission, which aims to improve the management of the ecosystem. The Commission promotes a coordinated regional approach to the long-term conservation, protection, rehabilitation, enhancement and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem to provide economic, environmental and social benefits to participating countries without damaging the environment. It is considered an outstanding model of South-South cooperation that benefits countries throughout the region.
The Commission applies the large marine ecosystem approach to ocean governance, guided by explicit goals, executed through regionally agreed policies, protocols and practices, and made adaptable through research and monitoring. It does so using the best available understanding of the ecological interactions and processes needed to sustain ecosystem composition, structure and function. The method uses the tried and tested transboundary diagnostic analysis that identifies major transboundary stressors and focuses on positive actions to offset threats to the ocean in order to recover depleted fish populations, restore degraded habitats and reduce coastal pollution.
Although still in its early stages, the actions of the Commission have led to analyses and the creation of a strategic action programme and a regional scientific advisory body, which together provide a shared vision for action to protect participating countries’ economic and community interests in the Benguela Current.
As a result, the countries have committed more than $18 million to the action plan, including staff, laboratories, equipment and the use of research vessels. The Commission has also set up a regional support structure that features a regional network (connected to a global network) to share experiences, skills, knowledge and good practices that are changing the way in which participating countries develop and manage their common marine ecosystem.
Sustainability is built into the Commission’s legally binding convention and its strategic action programme, with a strong capacity-building component for stakeholders and governments. Other regions and countries have already picked up on the Benguela example, such as the Humboldt Current Large Marine Ecosystem Project, the African large marine ecosystem projects (for the Canary, Guinea, Agulhas and Somali currents), the fisheries refugia in the South China Sea, and the Global Ballast (GloBallast) Water Management Programme. The replication of the model hinges on close cooperation and the funding of participating countries.
Countries / territories involved: Angola, Namibia, South Africa
Supported by: Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP
Implementing entities: Benguela Current Commission and participating countries
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2013 – present
URL of the practice: www.benguelacc.org
Name: Dr. Hashali Hamukuaya, Executive Secretary, Benguela Current Commission