Protecting the Benguela current

29 August 2006

South Africa, Angola and Namibia are to sign an agreement in Cape Town on Tuesday to officially establish the Benguela Current Commission.

The launch will be hosted by South African Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk and his Angolan and Namibian counterparts, Salomao Jos, Luheto Xirimbimbi, Abraham Iyambo and Ad Melkert.

The Commission is a formal institutional structure that will facilitate the understanding, protection, conservation and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME).

The Benguela current, the cold ocean stream that runs along the west coast of southern African, is a marine ecosystem rich in economic potential.

‘Joint and coordinated effort’
The Trade Law Centre of Southern Africa (Tralac) says that, given the mobile nature of the fishing resources in the current, it can only be adequately managed by coordinating the efforts of all three countries.

The wider aim of the BCLME project is thus to recommend to the three governments how this can most effectively be done.

According to South Africa’s Environmental Affairs and Tourism Department, the establishment of the commission is an important step in a decade-long process to build trust and cooperation between the three countries of the BCLME.

Marine scientists from the three countries have been working together since 1995, when they began to share knowledge and understanding of the Benguela Current ecosystem through a regional fisheries science programme dubbed “Benefit” (the Benguela Environment Fisheries Training Interactions Programme).

“More recently, scientists and fisheries managers have been working together through the BCLME Programme, a collaborative initiative that is supported by the Global Environment Facility through the United Nations Development Programme,” the department said in a statement on Monday.

“From a legal perspective, the harmonisation of laws and regulations across the domestic legal regimes of the three countries will be a crucial method of conducting this joint management and conservation of the sensitive resource,” it said.

“Trade in fish and fish products is an integral part of this regime, and this forms the main focus of the Tralac contribution to the work of the BCLME consortium.”

Source: BuaNews