Supporting marine spatial planning in the Benguela Current ecosystem

Project description

Title: Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Countries: Angola, Namibia, South Africa
Lead executing agency: Benguela Current Commission (BCC)
Overall term: 2014 to 2020


The Benguela Current ecosystem extends along the coast of Angola, Namibia and South Africa in the southeastern Atlantic. It is one of the world’s most productive marine regions with a unique biological diversity. Important industries in the region include aquaculture, maritime transport and the extraction of natural resources such as oil, gas, diamonds and other minerals.

In 2015, the governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa ratified the Benguela Current Convention (BCC). The three countries thus recognise the transboundary natural capital and promote the commercial use of the common ecosystem. The aim is to realise a holistic vision. Accordingly, the socio-economic development potential of the maritime region is to be used in a way that all industry sectors and the societies of the countries sustainably benefit from it.


Marine spatial planning (MSP) sustainably governs the region’s maritime economy. MSP helps to maintain a healthy ecosystem by integrating conservation objectives for marine biodiversity in the planning process.


The project supports the sustainable marine use of the Benguela Current by implementing marine spatial planning (MSP), a decision-making process that guides when and where human activities occur in the ocean. The aim is to permit the right activity to be performed in the right place in a way that sustainably supports the development of the maritime economy in the region to the benefit of people and the environment. MSP helps sectoral decision-makers plan in consultation with other maritime users. It identifies spatial conflicts and synergies that can benefit as many industries as possible through the shared use of marine areas. This is a prerequisite for sustainable marine development. The project supports the member states of the Benguela Current Commission (BCC) in identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs).

The project applies a learning-by-doing approach. Multiple interventions at national and regional levels ensure sustainable capacity development. The goal is to enable and provide concrete learning opportunities and garner experience from the practical implementation of MSP and the description of EBSAs. Marine spatial plans will be developed for each country. These will be drawn up based on the current and future location of human activity in the planning territories. Work on EBSAs enables countries transition to science-based management of their (transboundary) marine diversity.

The project designs all activities such that capacities can be expanded and enhanced, and use can be made of competences already available in the region – for instance, through knowledge transfer and on-the-job training. In addition, the project implements a communication and awareness-raising strategy aimed at conveying the benefits of MSP and EBSA to the public. Lessons learned are shared nationally, within the region and globally.


So far, the project has supported the introduction of MSP processes at national and regional levels: the three countries are in the process of evaluating the current status of human activities in their planning territories, and will draw up spatial plans. A draft MSP strategy for the BCC region is under development. All EBSAs in the region have been updated and the effects of human influence analysed. More than 100 government representatives are receiving training through courses and study trips to European countries.

Further Information