Environmental Hub

Coastal Environment
An Overview of Swakopmund, Namibia
An Overview of Swakopmund, Namibia

The increasing concentration of the World's population in coastal areas has created different conflicts between the human and development activities and the coastal ecosystems along with management difficulties. Typically, management in coastal areas has been characterized by sectoral, fragmented and short-term development strategies that have failed to take into account the multiple uses occurring within the coastal environment. This has led to problems arising from the lack of understanding of the socioeconomic character of coastal environments and poor cooperation between different levels of administration and management.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

SEA helps authorities and developers to make decisions taking the environment into consideration. It is a term widely used to refer to a systematic process of analyzing the environmental effects of policies, plans and programmes. Often the process is equated with a formal procedure based on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It is a means of integrating environmental considerations into development policy-making and planning, more recently referred to as “mainstreaming environment”. SEA is a holistic, cross-sectoral approach to the implementation of sustainable development which could also include social and economic effects.

SEA has become an important instrument to help achieve sustainable development in public planning and policy making. The importance of SEA is widely recognised and the particular benefits include:

  • To support sustainable development
  • To improve the evidence base for strategic decisions
  • To facilitate and respond to consultation with stakeholders
  • To streamline other processes such as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) of individual development projects

The structure of SEA is based on the following phases:

  • Phase 1: "Screening", investigation of whether the plan or programme falls under the SEA legislation
  • Phase 2: "Scoping", defining the boundaries of investigation, assessment and assumptions required
  • Phase 3: "Documentation of the state of the environment", effectively a baseline on which to base judgments
  • Phase 4: "Determination of the likely (non-marginal) environmental impacts", usually in terms of Direction of Change rather than firm figures
  • Phase 5: Informing and consulting the public
  • Phase 6: Influencing "Decision taking" based on the assessment
  • Phase 7: Monitoring of the effects of plans and programmes after their implementation.

SEA should ensure that plans and programmes take into consideration the environmental effects they cause. If those environmental effects are part of the overall decision taking it is called Strategic Impact Assessment.

For more information about SEA, consult the Strategic Environmental Assessment Information Service website.

Walvis Bay, Namibia Coastline
Walvis Bay, Namibia Coastline

Objectives of the SEA for Namibia's coastal zone

The aim of SEA for the Namibian coast is to provide decision makers at national, regional and local level and affected stakeholders with timely and relevant information on the potential environmental impacts of on the ground activities, policies and programmes. Such information is usually used to enable decision makers and affected people to make required modification and adjustment in an effort to avoid negative environmental impacts and environmental disasters.

SEA is therefore a process that is inextricably linked to decision making. It facilitates the early consideration of environmental impacts, the examination of a broad array of potential alternatives, the generation of standard mitigation measures and the opportunity to address a wide range of impacts, including those that are cumulative, synergistic, indirect, long range, delayed and global.2. As basis of this, regional SEAs will be conducted in all coastal areas of the four coastal regions: Kunene, Erongo, Hardap and Karas during the project period.

The information, data and findings resulting from the SEA process will be presented in a Decision Support Tool (DST). This tool will be disseminated to political and technical decision makers at local, regional and national levels in order to assist them in taking decisions on biodiversity conservation, land use planning, and social and economic development planning in the coastal zones.

Decision Support Tool (DST)

DST is a map-based documentation of the results of the modelled land use suitability, including the analyses of spatial trends in biodiversity. DST is part of the SEA report and should be used together to interpret the background for the conclusions and recommendations given. An important usage of the DST in relation to spatial planning of future developments is the possibility to compare the suitability of an area for different and potentially competing land uses. The DST does not offer any decisions, but rather a user-friendly map in high resolution of the suitability of each land use evaluated on the basis of multi-criteria evaluations of all economic, social and environmental issues.

On the Namibian coast, with the prospects of continued decentralisation and growth in the standard of living and thus the diversification of the use of natural resources, the task of effective resource allocation will soon become a difficult task for resource managers, not least at the regional level. Add to this the dynamic environment subject to substantial and complex impacts from human intervention, and one has the ingredients for a decision making process that is dominated by uncertainty and consequent risk for the decision maker.

Sealion on one of the local tourist boats in Walvis Bay, Namibia
Sealion on one of the local tourist boats in Walvis Bay, Namibia

Coastal Profile

All data and other information collected during the SEA process fed into the preparation work for regional coastal profiles for particular use by the four coastal  Regional Councils ; Kunene, Erongo, Hardap and //Karas 

The regional coastal profiles are intended to give regional councils and local authorities as well as local communities general information on biophysics, socioeconomic, biodiversity, etc for their specific areas.

A profile describes what the coastline has to offer in the way of natural resources, its people, what they do and how the natural environment responds. Like the SEA, the information in the coastal profile can be used as a basis when policies in the coastal zone are formulated. Briefly, a profile complements an SEA and DST.

Marine Protected Area (MPA)
Fish processing factory in Walvis Bay, Namibia
Fish processing factory in Walvis Bay, Namibia

The marine environment is critical to the natural and cultural heritage of the world. Not only do many marine areas support a great diversity of plants, animals, and natural habitats, but the oceans play an essential role in climatic cycles and other global processes.

Marine ecosystems and resources are fundamental to the sustainable development of coastal countries such as Namibia, providing food, minerals, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, and a vast range of other products. They often support growing tourism and recreation industries and play a vital role in transport and in the culture and lifestyle of coastal people.

However, marine ecosystems throughout the world face increasingly serious threats from pollution, overexploitation, conflicting uses of resources, damage and destruction of habitat, and other harmful consequences of human development. Biodiversity is especially at risk. Conserving marine biodiversity is therefore a priority.

The world has its eyes on Namibia in this regard, and the benefit of the pronouncing the first offshore MPA in the region would have immense benefits and exposure to our country.

Marine Protected Area objectives

The definition of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) adopted by IUCN and other international and national bodies is: Any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment. (Kelleher and Kenchington, 1992).

The main aims of MPAs identified in IUCN's Guidelines for Establishing Marine Protected Areas (Kelleher and Kenchington, 1992) are:

  • To maintain essential ecological and life support systems;
  • To ensure the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems; and
  • To preserve biotic diversity.

When considering the utility of MPAs for sustaining fisheries, it would be hard to argue that the attainment of any of these fundamental aims is not essential. They are, however, general aims and they can be expanded to the following purposes, most of which are relevant to fisheries (IUCN, 1994):

  • Scientific research;
  • wilderness protection.

Because stoppage of resource use around the islands will clearly not be acceptable to most stakeholders, and therefore result in deadlock for the whole process of creating MPAs, a suggested IUCN category VI MPA is ideal for the Namibian Islands (Category VI - Managed Resource Protected Area: protected area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems). The IUCN category VI MPA is an area containing predominantly unmodified natural systems, managed to ensure long term protection and maintenance of biological diversity, while providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs. The area must also fit the overall definition of a protected area.

The objectives of management for the IUCN Category IV are:

  • To protect and maintain the biological diversity and other natural values of the area in the long term;
  • To promote sound management practices for sustainable production purposes;
  • To protect the natural resource base from being alienated for other land use purposes that would be detrimental to the area's biological diversity;
  • To contribute to regional and national development.

For more information about IUCN guidelines and Categories, you can download the following documents:

Read more on IUCN: http://www.iucn.org/

A fishing boat found in Namibian waters
A fishing boat found in Namibian waters

Why Namibia needs Marine Protected Areas?

The protection and regeneration of marine resources are priority issues for coastal states in particular Namibia, whose marine resources contribute considerably to the socio-economic welfare of the country. Moreover, the global fish stock collapses and possible negative ecosystem effects from mining and fishing activities has resulted in steps taken to establish Marine Protected Areas in Namibia. Benefits of closed area management are increasingly apparent and recognized, from both resource management and conservation perspectives.

The declaration of Namibia’s islands and surrounding areas could serve as a useful and revolutionary precedent, in paving the way for further closed area management tools. This would align well with temporal, spatial fisheries management initiatives and tools, contained in the eco-system approach to fisheries (EAF) and other requirements in the SADC Fisheries Protocol. The promulgation of MPAs feeds favourably into Namibia’s Vision 2030, the BCLME, and the ecosystem approach for fisheries management as reinforced at the G8 meeting in July 2005.

According to Dr. Lindeque, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia currently boasts a good conservation standing. On the marine side however, Namibia has not formalized protected areas, and the present proclamation would well complement other existing initiatives, parks and conservancies. Especially with the immanent declaration of the Sperrgebiet National Park on the terrestrial side, the proposed Marine Protected Area provides an essential component and ideal complement. 

MPA declaration process

Section 51 of Namibia’s Marine Resources Act (MRA) of 2001 clearly empowers the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources to declare Marine Protected Areas as follows:

  1. The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, describe the boundaries of any area of Namibian waters and declare such area to be a marine reserve for the protection or regeneration of marine resources.
     
  2. Prior to the declaration of each reserve, the Minister shall, after consultation with interested persons, establish objectives for the management of the reserve and may by notice specify the activities that may be conducted within the reserve and such other requirements respecting the reserve as may be appropriate for achieving such objectives, including:
    • the species of marine resources, if any, that may or may not be harvested within the marine reserve;
    • the conditions subject to which such marine resources may be harvested;
    • the conditions of access to the marine reserve.
     
  3. The Permanent Secretary may in a marine reserve perform any act or allow the performance of any act and take any measures which are not incompatible with the objectives for which the marine reserve has been set aside.
     
  4. The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, in accordance with subsection (1), abolish a marine reserve or alter its boundaries. (own emphasis added)
     
  5. Once the MPA is declared, the Management Plans can be incorporated and annually reviewed.

Source: Proclamation of Namibia’s offshore islands and surrounding waters as Marine Protected Areas - Heidi Currie

Close-up of a Pelican - Walvis Bay, Namibia
Close-up of a Pelican - Walvis Bay, Namibia

The Namibian Islands’ Marine Protected Area covers almost one million hectares of marine and sea area where 10 small islands and 8 more islets or rocks provide sanctuary to an astonishing variety of life. This area stretches over 400 km from Meob Bay, north of Lüderitz, to Chaimas Bay south of the harbour town and 30 km into the Atlantic Ocean. It maintains essential ecological and life support systems, ensuring the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems and preserving biotic diversity.

Seabirds and seals dominate the islands’ flora and fauna. Of the 14 seabird species breeding in Namibia, 11 species breed on the islands and inshore rocks including Namibia’s endangered African penguins and 90 per cent of the world’s endangered Bank Cormorants.

Breeding in the waters of the Namibian Islands’ Marine Protected Area are the southern right whale and Heaviside’s dolphin, with the humpback whale migrating, while the dusky dolphin, the mink whale and killer whale or orca can be seen here regularly.

The islands are biodiversity hotspots, zoogeographic transition zones and internationally known as globally Important Bird Areas. They also provide for the collection of oceanographic and biological data regarding climatic effects and changes, and the response to these by the marine environment.

The islands should ensure the protection of the following:

  • Spawning and nursery grounds of the commercially important rock lobster and promotion of the recovery of some fish stocks, notably Silver kob (kabeljou) and steenbras, and other marine resources,
  • Cetaceans such as the hump-back, southern right and minke whales, as well as our special Heavyside to breed and feed,
  • Seabird colonies that breed on the islands and forage in the surrounding waters and a number of globally threatened species of the Benguela Upwelling Ecosystem, as well as those of other red data species, such as the critically endangered sea turtles.

Mr. Nguvauva said the MPA would assist authorities to maintain and improve vigilance regarding risks posed by shipping-related threats, such as oil spills.

Awareness & Events

Resource book for learners and teachers about the Namibian coast: COASTODIANS: Caring for our coast, Caring for our future COASTODIANS is a resource book that has b...

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