22 February 2013

Namibia: The Benguela Current Commission and the Signing of Its Convention


DR Hashali Hamukuaya the Executive Secretary of the Benguela Current Commission based in Swakopmund bears overall responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the Secretariat of the Benguela Current Commission and provides strategic leadership to ensure it fulfills its mandate. A fisheries biologist by training, Dr Hamukuaya has worked as Executive Secretary of the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) and Director of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Programme. Prior to his taking on these regional management positions, Dr Hamukuaya worked for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources for eleven years. New Era caught up with him to find out more about the Benguela Current Commission.

Dr Hamukuaya, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to New Era. You are the Executive Secretary of the Benguela Current Commission of which the convention is soon to be signed. How will the signing of the convention benefit the people of Namibia, South Africa and Angola?

"The health and wellbeing of coastal people and marine industries will move to the forefront of Namibia's agenda when the country joins its neighbours - Angola and South Africa - in signing the Benguela Current Convention (BCC). The signing of the convention will legally establish the Benguela Current Commission as a regional inter-governmental organization that promotes the sustainable use and management of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Programme to ensure long-term social and economic benefits to the people of the region."

When was this Commission established and who supports its activities?

"The Commission was established on January 31, 2007 by the three countries, through the signing of an interim agreement, which paved the way for the development of the convention.

"The activities of the Benguela Current Commission are supported by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the governments of Angola, Namibia and South Africa. The government of Norway has also provided generous funding for the BCC Science Programme, while Iceland is supporting a comprehensive training and capacity building initiative. Most funding has been secured from the European Union for a joint research project called ECOFISH. This initiative has been developed in collaboration with the Danish Technical University."

How is the convention expected to benefit the economies of the three countries involved?

"In 2010 Angola, Namibia and South Africa, the countries of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) region, began the process of developing and negotiating a multi-lateral, multi-sectorial convention that, once signed and ratified, will form the legally binding framework for the sustainable use, development and management of the Benguela Current and its resources. We have estimated that the annual cost of protecting trans-boundary fisheries stocks, for example Cape hake and horse-mackerel, is approximately US$8 million (N$64 million), while cooperation in the use and management of shared stocks could increase resource rent by US$150 million (N$1.2 billion). We have also learned that an effective, cooperative ecosystem approach to the management of hake stocks alone could increase income by up to 40 percent. In contrast, the economic risk of not cooperating in the use of shared fish stocks is believed to be in the region of US$110 million (N$880 million) per annum."

What is the significance of establishing a commission dealing specifically with the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME)?

"The BCLME extends from Angola's Cabinda province in the north, to Port Elizabeth in South Africa, encompassing the full extent of Namibia's marine environment. It is considered to be one of the richest marine ecosystems on earth and occupies a crucial position in the world's oceans, at the crossroads of ocean circulation, environmental variability and international shipping. The BCLME is richly endowed with both living and non-living marine resources. Valuable fisheries, particularly hake, sardines, horse-mackerel, tuna and rock lobster occur throughout the Benguela region and underneath these productive waters, rich deposits of oil, gas and diamonds occur. Modern technology is unlocking these resources at an unprecedented rate and new resources are being discovered at ever-greater depths."

What is the intention of the Benguela Current Convention?

"The intention of the Benguela Current Convention is to introduce an ecosystem-based approach to managing the BCLME. This means that, instead of managing living and non-living marine resources exclusively at the national level, the three countries will work together to tackle common environmental problems and issues such as pollution, the management of shared fish stocks and the coordination of regional efforts to mitigate the impacts of minerals exploration on the seabed."

Why was the BCC established and what does it hope to achieve?

"Economic studies have demonstrated that at least 200 000 Namibians, Angolans and South Africans find work in the maritime industries of the Benguela. Although the ecological integrity of the BCLME is still intact, the recent increase in development and industrial activity carries with it the responsibility of protecting and conserving marine resources for the benefit of current and future generations of the three countries. This is what we hope to achieve with the soon to be signed Benguela Current Convention. Namibia's Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has played a key role in the establishment of the Benguela Current Commission and led the Namibian negotiating team during the development and negotiation of the Benguela Current Convention over the past two years."

We know that the convention is expected to be signed in the near future, but do you have any specific date when the three governments will put pen to paper?

"Given the above brief introduction of the BCC and the fact this is our first edition of a series of quarterly contributions in New Era, it is my esteemed honour and pleasure to publicly and officially announce that the Benguela Current Convention will be signed on March 18, 2013, in the City of Benguela, Angola."

Do you know who will represent Namibia at the signing ceremony?

"The Honourable Bernard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources is expected to lead a delegation of Namibian ministers and dignitaries to Angola to officially sign the convention."

Once ratified, how will the convention operate and affect the three signatories?

"Once it is ratified, the Benguela Current Convention will commit Namibia and her neighbours to a long-term cooperative partnership to prevent and mitigate pollution and to implement policy and management measures to protect the marine ecosystem from negative impacts. They will also cooperate in the monitoring, assessment planning and management of the ecosystem, data and information sharing and training and capacity-building."

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