SANBI launches SA’s first Marine Biodiversity Plan

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) will officially launch South Africa’s first National Coastal and Marine Spatial Biodiversity Plan next week.

The plan, developed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), SANBI and Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is an important milestone on the path towards ensuring that South Africa’s wealth of coastal and marine biodiversity assets and ecological infrastructure are effectively managed and conserved for the benefit of South Africans and South Africa’s economy.

According to SANBI marine biodiversity research and policy practitioner Prideel Majiedt, the DFFE, SANBI and NMU have collaborated to carefully identify South Africa’s coastal and marine Critical Biodiversity Areas (CBAs) and Ecological Support Areas.

“This CBA Map comprises a portfolio of biodiversity priority areas that are important for conserving a representative sample of all coastal and marine ecosystem types and species, and for maintaining ecological processes and ecological infrastructure,” says Majiedt.

The CBA Map is accompanied by a set of sea-use guidelines that can help the South African government to make science-based decisions about the future of the country’s oceans and the ocean economy. Together, the CBA Map and its associated sea-use guidelines are designed to inform national policy, planning and implementation in support of sustainable development, adds Majiedt.

“South Africa is blessed with rich coastal and marine natural resources. Our overall aim is to provide the best available science to support biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in South Africa’s marine environment, for the benefit of current and future generations,” she says.

CBA map designed to inform 

The CBA map and the sea-use guidelines were created as multipurpose products, designed to inform a range of policy, planning and implementation processes, including marine spatial planning, environmental impact assessment, restoration initiatives and formal protection initiatives.

Dr Linda Harris, of NMU’s Institute for Marine Coastal Research says that although some of the identified biodiversity priority areas may lead to the expansion of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or the declaration of new MPAs, the CBA Map is not intended to be used directly as a map of priority areas for protected area expansion.

“Declaring parts of the ocean as an MPA requires more information and analysis than this project provides and, most importantly, an extensive stakeholder engagement process, she says.

 

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