The implementation of the BCLME Programme
The implementation of the BCLME Programme

The implementation phase began in March 2002. During the first six months of implementation, the Programme Coordination Unit (PCU) was established in Windhoek, Namibia. This was quickly followed by the setting up of three Activity Centres, one in each of the participating countries:

  • The Living Marine Resources Activity Centre in Swakopmund, Namibia;

  • The Biodiversity, Ecosystem Health & Pollution Activity Centre in Luanda, Angola; and

  • The Environmental Variability and Predictability Activity Centre, Cape Town, South Africa.

The three Activity Centres each have a director and secretary and serve as the headquarters for the activities of the Advisory Groups. With the support of the PCU, the Activity Centres organise Working Groups, conduct training, and present recommendations to the Program Steering Committee through the PCU. The Centres also provide capacity strengthening and networking for their respective activities.

Between September 2002 and April 2003, consultative meetings were held in each of the Activity Centres and an Advisory Group was appointed for each Centre. The Advisory Groups consist of two members from Angola, Namibia and South Africa.

The Advisory Groups:

  • Examine the problems and issues that were identified in the TDA and SAP;

  • Assess the existing projects and activities that are undertaken by the national Governments, BENEFIT, bilateral aid programs and private enterprises;

  • Identify gaps or elements that are missing from existing programs in order that the cross boundary elements are properly addressed by the BCLME Programme.

Larger, consultative fora were also formed to provide as wide a spectrum of knowledge as possible to each Advisory Group. The consultative fora were tasked with developing pre-proposals for the funding of specific projects. For example, a task group was established to develop pre-proposals for addressing the problem of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the BCLME.

Task groups developed project proposals for each of the topical study areas and these were forwarded to each Advisory Group for their consideration. If the project proposals were supported at the Advisory Group level, they were submitted to the Program Steering Committee for final approval. The Advisory Groups advised the Programme Steering Committee about the allocation of each project, i.e. whether the project should be circulated on an open tender basis, awarded to a sole supplier or routed to the BENEFIT program. Terms of reference (TORs) for each project were formulated to provide a common description of the requirements of the project.

By July 2006, the BCLME Programme had allocated more than US$10 million (R700 million) in support of 75 projects and activities. The projects are being implemented by a wide variety of clients, including government institutes, universities, private consultancies and BENEFIT. Each project is designed to address transboundary environmental problems and contribute to the integrated and sustainable management of the Benguela Large Marine Ecosystem.

For instance, a cluster of projects is testing the cumulative impact of offshore marine diamond mining on the ecosystem. The projects will pull together the results from several previous studies and make clear recommendations to the governments of South Africa and Namibia about the impact that diamond mining may have on the environment over extended periods of time.

A second cluster of projects is assessing and mapping the biodiversity of the estuarine, coastal, nearshore and offshore environments of the BCLME, and identifying suitable sites for aquaculture. The ultimate goal of these projects is to produce a strategic planning to tool that is capable of providing advice on the protection of sensitive areas and vulnerable species, as well as identifying possible sites for marine protected areas and aquaculture installations.

Fisheries have been a major focus of the BCLME Programme, not only because they are a vital source of food and employment for people in coastal villages, towns and cities throughout the region, but also because they are severely affected by environmental change.

For instance, the almost total disappearance of pilchards from the west coast of Namibia and South Africa is thought to be the result of environmental change. One of the ways in which the three countries are working to mitigate the impact of environmental change is to establish an Environmental Early Warning System (EEWS). They are working together through the BCLME Programme, to set up a simple and cost-effective EEWS for the Bengula region. The idea is to provide the management agencies in the three countries with early warning of extreme environmental events so that they can take well informed decisions.

Extreme environmental events include Benguela Niños, sustained warming events that can have a devastating impact on fisheries resources, especially when they are accompanied by low oxygen water or large scale eruptions of sulphur from the seabed.

For a detailed list of the projects that are currently being managed by the BCLME Programme, click here.

The Benguela Current Commission

Four government ministers from Namibia and South Africa met in Cape Town on August 29 to sign an Interim Agreement that will establish a Benguela Current Commission (BCC).

The BCC is a formal institutional structure that will help Angola, Namibia and South Africa to implement an “ecosystem approach” to managing the BCLME. This means that, instead of managing living and non-living marine resources at the national level, the three countries will work together to tackle transboundary environmental issues such as pollution, the management of shared fish stocks and the coordination of regional efforts to mitigate the impacts of marine mining and oil and gas production on the environment.

The BCC will formalise the loose ties that have been forged between Angola, Namibia and South Africa since 1995 when the regional marine science programme, BENEFIT, was established. It will make recommendations to the three countries on research and management issues relating to the management of the BCLME. It will be informed by an ecosystem advisory committee which will supply the three countries with the best available information concerning the implementation of the ecosystem approach to management.