South Africa is a maritime nation with jurisdiction over one of the largest exclusive economic zones in the world. Our ocean space is a resource rich and relatively pristine environment. The ocean represents a significant asset for current and future generations of South Africans. The use of various marine resources in our ocean space has increased over time and there remains significant potential for the unlocking of further economic development opportunities. As such South Africa needs to continuously balance the economic opportunities which our ocean space affords us while maintaining its environmental integrity. The challenge for South Africa is how best to encourage research, investment and use of our ocean resources in order to contribute to job creation and economic upliftment while at the same time protecting the ocean asset for present and future generations. This responsibility is made difficult because we only have a partial picture and understanding of the marine space and resources under our jurisdiction. There are significant gaps in our ocean knowledge which hampers effective planning. This is a challenge faced in varying degrees by all maritime nations and there is increasing global cooperation to better understand the ocean in order to promote sustainable use.
South Africa has passed a number of environmental statutes which give effect to the environmental rights in our Constitution. The general statutory framework provided by the National Environmental Management Act and associated supporting legislation envisages a high degree of cooperative governance between organs of state pursuing economic development and those tasked with environmental responsibilities. For some years now the general approach has been to follow sectoral management strategies with clear environmental guidelines. There is a growing recognition that this sectoral approach does not allow for maximising economic opportunities, ensuring environmental protection or increasing our understanding of the ocean space. This recognition has led many maritime states to adapt their ocean management approaches to better coordinate, monitor and regulate human use in their maritime zones. It has been clearly demonstrated that the adoption of a coordinated sectoral management approach to the ocean space can support and stimulate both economic and environmental sectors. South Africa is fortunate in that the existing environmental regulatory framework has already identified the need for coordinated sectoral management.
This White Paper sets out an approach whereby South Africa can, in the short term, increasingly accommodate coordinated sectoral management within the existing statutory framework. The White Paper envisages the simultaneous preparation of ocean environmental legislation aimed at improving the regulation and coordination of the management and development of South Africa's ocean.
Six ocean governance objectives have been identified namely:
- Coordinating and supporting the implementation of the relevant statutory and institutional frameworks;
- Establishing mechanisms for sectoral data collection and sharing;
- Creating and maintaining a shared national knowledge base on the human activities, status and functioning of the ocean;
- Establishing integrated ocean sustainable development and conservation ocean plans by the undertaking of strategic environmental impact assessments and the use of spatial planning tools;
- Enhancing national human and technical capacity to better understand and utilise ocean resources and opportunities; and
- Pursuing regional and international cooperation and governance mechanisms.