The agreement will manage marine resources off South Africa’s west coast, where the tuna catch plummeted to 16% of its normal size owing to undersea oil prospecting.
Namibia’s tuna harvest had dropped to 650 tons last November, from 1 800 tons in 2012 and 4 046 tons in 2011, the country’s fisheries and marine resources ministry said last year.
Anna Erastus, a policy director with the ministry, blamed the sickening drop on the oil industry: “With increasing amounts of seismic exploration in Namibian waters recently, tuna catches have dropped.”
The BCC would “promote a co-ordinated, regional approach to the long-term conservation, protection, rehabilitation, enhancement and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Marine Ecosysem, to provide economic, environmental and social benefits”, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said yesterday.
The ratification dovetails with government’s drive to maximise benefits from the country’s extensive marine diversity.
President Jacob Zuma last month announced plans to explore parts of the ocean to unlock its economic potential.
Work on the plan started last month. A report was due for completion on August 15.
Zuma said the government believed the ocean could contribute up to R177 billion to GDP. Molewa said yesterday’s ratification of the BCC – signed last year by the three governments and approved by their respective parliaments – gave it full legal effect.
“Never before have nations agreed to such a comprehensive and stringent set of rules to protect the marine environment of a large marine ecosystem,” she said.
South Africa has issued oil and gas exploration licences for its east and west coasts following promising finds there.
Several oil and gas companies are exploring the South African waters bordering Namibia’s main tuna fishing ground.
Erastus said these oil exploration activities were “in the direct path of tuna migrating from South Africa to Namibian waters”.
She said a coordinated strategy was needed because the tuna migrate through South African waters to Namibia.
The South African tuna industry would be “similarly affected”, she concluded.