EBM, the Namibian Way

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

By Tundi Agardy (tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net), Contributing Editor, MEAM

Where are some of the most exciting new efforts in EBM being practiced? My answer may surprise you. Namibia. It is a country that has not trumpeted a claim of doing EBM, but seems well on the way to comprehensive and integrative management.

There are four important pillars to Namibia's exemplary management: (1) the newly declared Namibian Islands MPA; (2) two recently linked coastal national parks; (3) the Benguela Large Marine Ecosystem program; and (4) Namibia's emerging coastal policy.

The Namibian Islands MPA signaled the country's commitment to adopting an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Designated this year, the MPA is Namibia's first, spanning almost one million hectares of islands and important ocean habitat. It accommodates many different uses, including commercial and recreational fisheries, ecotourism, and even diamond mining. This cross-sectoral management has meant that even though the protected area was designed with fisheries management in mind, the reach of management extends beyond fisheries to a wide variety of uses. Planning the MPA involved players from national government, regional and local authorities, the private sector, and conservation NGOs.

Then there are the recently designated Sperrgebiet National Park and Namib Naukluft National Park - two coastal parks that span the entire coastline of the country. With cooperative planning and an institutional structure that allows for cooperative management, the new park designations create a land-sea link to promote co-management among the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and regional and local authorities.

The Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Project was launched in 1995 to address problems shared by Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, including the management and migration of valuable fish stocks across national boundaries, harmful algal blooms, alien invasive species, and transboundary pollutants. The Benguela Current Commission (BCC) enables the three countries to engage constructively, and by 2011 there will a legally binding mechanism to resolve marine management issues.

Finally, there is Namibia's emerging coastal policy, just released in draft form. Significant stakeholder input was involved in developing it, including in defining the desert country's coastal zone (it extends inland as far as the sea fog belt). Additional public feedback is expected concerning prioritization of issues, institutional restructuring to build capacity, and other governance topics.

Namibia's coastal and marine policies thus reflect all the central tenets of EBM, including participatory planning, integrated (cross-sectoral) management, an attempt to find the best institutional structure, strong feedback loops between science and policy, and mechanisms for adaptive management.

These developments in Namibia are all new, fresh, and exciting. It remains to be seen whether this nation can demonstrate true integration across these four EBM pillars to claim full-fledged EBM. But no matter what further integration occurs, the country is well down the path toward exemplary management, and looking to see if the world will follow.

For more information:

www.nacoma.org.na
Website of the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management project, including information on Namibia's coastal policy and the new coastal national parks

www.bclme.org
Website of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Project

www.mfmr.gov.na
Website of the Namibian fisheries ministry, including information on the Namibian Islands MPA

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