Angola, Namibia and South Africa sign world’s first large marine ecosystem legal framework

30 Apr 2013

image Greater flamingos in Namibia. They use the coast and wetlands as their main refuge during the non breeding season. @Claudio Velasquez/DLIST BCLME

Benguela, Angola — With the signing of the Benguela Current Convention, Angola, Namibia and South Africa will work together on the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem, one of the richest ecosystems on earth.

Stretching from Port Elizabeth in South Africa to the province of Cabinda in northern Angola, the Benguela Current is an area of ocean that produces goods and services estimated to be worth at least US $54.3 billion per year. Offshore oil and gas production, marine diamond mining, coastal tourism and commercial fishing and shipping are some of the most important industrial activities that take place in the region.

At the heart of the Benguela Current Convention is cross-national agreement to use the ecologically- and economically-rich ecosystem in a way that carefully balances its long-term preservation and the needs of the people whose livelihoods depend on its use.

“It is the ideal and most effective way to achieve the sustainable management of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem and ensure the sustainable future of the people who rely on it,” said Maria do Valle Ribeiro, who heads the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Angola. 

UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have been providing funding and technical support for regional cooperation around protecting the Benguela Current since the 1990s. Their backing was key to the successful establishment of the Commission in 2007.

“The historic signing of the Benguela Current Convention represents the culmination of many years of research, consultation and negotiation, all of which have been carried out in a spirit of trust and cooperation,” said Hashali Hamukuaya, Executive Secretary of the Benguela Current Commission.

The signing ceremony took place at the seat of the Government of the Province of Benguela and was attended by the Angolan ministers of Fisheries, Science and Technology, Agriculture, Transport and Mines & Energy; the Namibian ministers of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Mines & Energy and Transport; and the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Water.

A holistic form of ecosystem management is essential to address increasing threats to complex coastal and marine environments, said Deputy CEO of the GEF André Laperriere.

“Sustainable management is not possible without a legal framework such as the one jointly put in place today by the Governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa,” he said. “The leaders of these countries have clearly shown that it is possible and desirable to see political solutions based on scientific knowledge in order to reverse marine degradation and resource depletion.”