Feature Story

Going with the Flow: Ecosystem-based governance of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem

June 4, 2017

A key outcome of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Programme has been the establishment of a multisectoral, intergovernmental body to drive an ecosystem approach to governance of this valuable, shared ecosystem

In the past, inadequate regional planning and uncoordinated exploitation of marine and coastal resources has had detrimental effects on the functioning and sustainability of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem. A key outcome of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Programme has been the establishment of a multisectoral, intergovernmental body to drive an ecosystem approach to governance of this valuable, shared ecosystem – this is the Benguela Current Commission.

First established in 2007 through an Interim Agreement, the Commission came into full force in 2013 when the Governments of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa signed the Benguela Current Convention, a ground-breaking environmental treaty that entrenches the Benguela Current Commission as a permanent intergovernmental organization. This is the world’s first legal framework and commission centred on transboundary management of a large marine ecosystem.

The Secretariat of the Benguela Current Convention coordinates the efforts of its three member countries to resolve the most pressing of the environmental problems that threaten the integrity of the Benguela Current ecosystem, and the economic values it supplies. Sound ocean governance, training and capacity building are at the top of the Convention’s agenda.

Actions have focused on three critical areas of intervention: preventing marine pollution (from ships, land-based sources, marine mining, and oil extraction); strategic alignment of policies, laws, and regulations across multiple sectors (to ensure that industrial activities in one country do not impact on the coastal or marine environment of the others); and, transboundary management of fisheries (including monitoring and regulation of fishing activity).

With continuing support from UNDP and GEF, the Convention’s three member states are working together to safeguard ecosystem sustainability across multiple marine sectors, and multiple countries, in ways that generate benefits for economies and societies without damaging the environment. At the heart of the Convention is a long-term perspective that prioritizes the sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services, while recognising that human livelihoods are an integral consideration in ecosystem-based management.

Newly-enacted policies and regulations include measures to ensure sustainable fisheries (such as suspending fishing to allow stocks to replenish), protective measures (such as establishing marine protected areas for threatened species and habitats), and contingency plans (for managing oil spills, invasive alien species and other forms of pollution).

 By working across borders and across sectors, the Benguela Current Convention countries are taking critical steps to protect their shared marine ecosystem together, ensuring the long-term future of their ocean-based economies and societies.