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World’s First Large Marine Ecosystem Legal Framework signed by Angola, Namibia and South Africa

By Claire Attwood, BCC media consultant

The Benguela Current Convention was signed in the Angolan city of Benguela on March 18, marking the establishment of the first multi-lateral Commission in the world to be based on the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) approach to ocean governance, and ushering in a new era of cooperation between the governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa.

Bernard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Namibia (left), Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in South Africa (center), and Victoria de Barros Neto, Minister of Fisheries in Angola (right), exchange signed copies of the Benguela Current Convention.

 

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.

Also in attendance were representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF); both organisations provided funding and technical support for regional cooperation since mid-1990s, and their backing was key to the successful establishment of the Benguela Current Commission (BCC) in 2007.

With the signing of the Benguela Current Convention, the BCC becomes a permanent inter-governmental institution through which Angola, Namibia and South Africa will collaborate in promoting the long-term conservation, protection, rehabilitation, enhancement and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME).

The BCLME is an area of ocean space stretching from Port Elizabeth in South Africa to the province of Cabinda in the north of Angola. It is regarded as one of the richest ecosystems on earth, with ecosystem 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, commercial fishing and shipping are some of the most important industrial activities that take place in the region.

Speaking at the signing of the Benguela Current Convention, Ms Maria do Valle Ribeiro, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative of Angola (in the picture), congratulated the three countries for creating the world’s first LME commission, saying 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.”

Ms Ribeiro commended the strong leadership demonstrated by the government ministers present at the signing ceremony, saying:

“Every time you have met as the BCC Conference of Ministers since September 2010, you set the bar higher. Here in Benguela, you will lead us all by signing the Convention. It is a pleasure to be guided by such strong leadership.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Mr. André Laperriere, Deputy CEO of the GEF (in the picture) who said that holistic, adaptive management is essential to address increasing threats to complex coastal and marine environments:

“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,” said Mr Laperriere.

“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.”

At the heart of the Benguela Current Convention is the concept of the ecosystem approach: a long-term approach that aims to maintain ecosystem goods and services for sustainable use, while recognising that humans are an integral part of the process. 

“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 of this unique multilateral agreement is the next logical step after nearly two decades of collaboration between South Africa, Namibia and Angola.”

For more information on the Benguela Current Convention, please visit www.benguelacc.org  or contact Dr. Hashali Hamukuaya, Executive Secretary, Benguela Current Commission, hashali@benguelacc.org or info@benguelacc.org.

 

Bernard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Namibia (left), and Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs in South Africa, sign the Benguela Current Convention


The Ministerial delegation arrives at the seat of the Provincial Government of Benguela, the Palácio do Governo de Benguela.


Traditional dancers welcomed the ministerial delegation.


The magnificent, Palácio do Governo de Benguela, a fitting venue for the historic signing of the Benguela Current Convention.