Green Paper on Ocean Management Published

Department of Environmental Affairs

The green paper on the National Environmental Management of the Ocean (NEMO) has been published in Government Gazette 35783 for public comment.

The policy published by the department of environmental affairs (DEA) aims to protect and conserve South Africa’s ocean environment and to promote sustainable development.

The policy document acknowledges the importance of the ocean ecosystem in, directly and indirectly, impacting on human livelihoods, food security, agriculture, trade and industry.

The significant economic and development opportunities made available from living and non-living ocean resources are also considered in this document; including:

•    Opportunities for sectors, like fishing and shipping;
•    as well as significant new and emergent technologically advanced sectors relating to medicine, energy, mining and food production.

There are four policy objectives and nine policy statements of ocean environmental management:

•    Objective 1 - Ocean environmental information
o    Policy statement 1 - Ensure improved adherence with domestic legislation’s ocean environmental reporting.
o    Policy statement 2 – Enhance existing research and monitoring of ocean ecosystems.

•    Objective 2 - Ocean environmental knowledge
o    Policy statement 3 – Produce information tools to facilitate knowledge and understanding of the natural functioning of ecosystems and of human impact on the ocean environment.
o    Policy statement 4 – Establish ocean ecosystem thresholds for human health and biodiversity conservation.
o    Policy statement 5 – Provide knowledge to promote sustainable development whilst maintaining the resilience of the ocean.

•    Objective 3 - Ocean environmental management
o    Policy statement 6 – Provide timeous information on trends and extremes in ecosystem and earth system functioning.
o    Policy statement 7 – Ensure the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of ocean habitat and species.
o    Policy statement 8 – Establish ecosystem and biodiversity management plans.

•    Objective 4 - Ocean environmental integrity
o    Policy statement 9 – Cooperate at national, regional and international levels to advance sustainable management of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the High Seas and Antarctica.

Some of the key points and objectives raised in the green paper for ocean management include:

•    The planned move, in the longer term, from a coordinated sectoral environmental management to integrated environmental ocean management.
•    That it is necessary to draft specific legislation such as an Ocean Act that will;
•    establish clear political reporting and administrative structures, using an ecosystem-based management approach and;
•    provide for procedural mechanisms during integrated spatial management.
•    The policy objectives of NEMO will give effect to ocean stewardship responsibilities articulated in s24 of the Constitution and contribute to fulfilling the country’s commitment to chapter 17 of Agenda 21 (the Rio Declaration).
•    The DEA will assume responsibility as the environmental regulatory authority for all unregulated and new human activity in the ocean environment.

Practical applications proposed in the green paper that will drive the ocean management objectives include:

•    Investment in further capacity and infrastructure for research in specialised areas.
•    Promoting the increase in the number of South African science and engineering graduates in ocean related studies; reflecting in particular, the gender and racial composition of the country.
•    Partnerships between government and tertiary education institutions to stimulate innovation in technology that supports ocean-based science and industry.
•    Implementing methods to monitor South Africa’s extensive marine area, including the use of ship-based systems, satellite observation, monitoring buoys and other emerging technologies.
•    The production of a detailed spatial-mapping of biodiversity and natural physical processes of South Africa’s marine environment which will enhance supported decision making.
•    Spatial-mapping will inform the division of South Africa’s marine environment into large marine ecosystems (LMEs) or bioregions to be used for management planning purposes and predictions in line with South Africa’s climate change policy.
•    The DEA will establish representative network of marine conservation areas.
•    The DEA will adopt internationally agreed conservation targets as practices, where appropriate, as minimum necessary requirements for conservation.
•    The establishment of best practice guidelines by the DEA for governing transport of harmful and noxious substances in the marine environment.
•    Establish and enforce regulations relating to alien marine species.

Once the ocean management policy is approved it will enable South Africa, in the next 5 years, to complete the move from sectoral ocean management planning towards a coordinated sectoral environment management.

Written comments must be submitted by 16h00 on 15 January 2013.

Sabinet Cape Town Office