Tuesday 8 November 2022: Today, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) launched South Africa’s first National Coastal and Marine Spatial Biodiversity Plan in an online-only event attended by various stakeholders in the biodiversity sector.

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.

The DFFE, SANBI and NMU have collaborated to carefully identify South Africa’s coastal and marine Critical Biodiversity Areas (CBAs) and Ecological Support Areas (ESAs). 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.

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 associated sea-use guidelines are designed to inform national policy, planning and implementation in support of sustainable development, Majiedt says.

“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,” SANBI marine biodiversity research and policy practitioner Prideel Majiedt.

The CBA Map and 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.

“Although CBA Maps are a very important informant for Marine Protected Area (MPA) expansion, the CBA map is not intended to be used directly as  priority areas for MPAs as other information is also needed, and an extensive stakeholder process is required,” explains Dr Stephen Holness, research associate at Nelson Mandela University.

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, he says.

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