If you wish to provide feedback on the revised environmental ask for inclusion of this EBSA into the upcoming Marine Spatial Planning process, please fill in the survey form

Data used in the analyses below (ecological condition, threat status, protection, distribution of activities, cumulative pressure from activities) are from the National Biodiversity Assessment 2018: Marine Realm Assessment. See the NBA 2018 website for access to the report.

 

EBSA Status Assessment and Management Recommendations

Ecological Condition, Threat Status, Current Protection and Key Features in the EBSA

Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent) | Management Interventions Needed for the EBSA

Activity Evaluation Per Zone: Zoning Feasibility | Back to the SA EBSA status and management home page

 

 

EBSA overview

Agulhas Bank Nursery Area is a key spawning ground and nursery area, and is the centre of abundance for many warm-temperate species, including endemic sparids. It is important for retention of eggs and larvae, recruitment and food provision. This EBSA is recognised particularly for its uniqueness and rarity; importance for life-history stages; and importance for threatened species and habitats.

Click here for the full EBSA description

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Ecological Condition, Threat Status, Current Protection and Key Features in the EBSA

Agulhas Bank Nursery Area has a myriad of features and ecosystem types that need to be protected for the area to maintain the features and processes that give it its EBSA status. The criteria for which this EBSA ranks highly are: uniqueness and rarity; importance for life-history stages; and importance for threatened species and habitats. There are 20 ecosystem types represented, of which the inner and mid-shelf mosaics (matrix of reefs and soft sediments), rocky shores and rocky shelf ecosystem types contain fragile species that are especially sensitive to damage. Kelp forests also contribute to the nursery function of the EBSA and are sensitive to disturbance, although these can recover relatively quicker than some of the other more fragile and delicate species, such as corals.

 

Agulhas Bank Nursery Area proportion of area in each ecological condition category.

 

Agulhas Bank Nursery Area is largely in good ecological condition (41%), with some portions that are fair (19%). Consequently, the bulk of the offshore extent is either Near Threatened (67%) or Least Concern (15%). However, the inshore areas, especially in the north-eastern portion of the EBSA between Cape Infanta and Mossel Bay, are heavily utilised and in poor ecological condition. The result is that the bays, rocky shores, muddy mid-shelf, kelp forests, reef sand mosaics, sandy inner shelf and some of the estuarine shores in this area are all threatened. Consequently, 18% of the EBSA area comprises threatened ecosystem types that are mostly Critically Endangered (13% of the EBSA extent).

 

Agulhas Bank Nursery Area proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.

 

Agulhas Bank Nursery Area proportion of area in a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

 

Protection of features in MPAs has been considerably expanded and strengthened following the proclamation of the Operation Phakisa MPA network, with the EBSA area within reserves increasing by more than an order of magnitude from 2% to 30%. These new MPAs cover the southern extension of the EBSA, south of Cape Infanta where ecological condition is good and ecosystem threat status is Near Threatened or Least Concern, which will proactively avoid those ecosystem types degrading further and becoming threatened. However, many of the threatened features listed above have no protection in the EBSA.

Threat status, protection level and ecological condition of ecosystem types in the EBSA. Other key features are also listed.

Feature

Threat Status

Protection Level

Condition (%)

Good

Fair

Poor

Ecosystem Types

Agulhas Blues

NT

NP

11.0

81.4

7.7

Agulhas Dissipative Intermediate Sandy Shore

LC

WP

69.8

14.6

15.6

Agulhas Exposed Rocky Shore

VU

MP

17.8

65.7

16.5

Agulhas Inner Shelf Mosaic

VU

MP

39.0

27.7

33.3

Agulhas Intermediate Sandy Shore

LC

MP

79.2

19.3

1.5

Agulhas Kelp Forest

VU

MP

38.4

46.7

14.9

Agulhas Mid Shelf Mosaic

NT

MP

74.1

7.3

18.6

Agulhas Mixed Shore

NT

MP

12.8

73.6

13.6

Agulhas Muddy Mid Shelf

CR

PP

0.4

7.8

91.8

Agulhas Muddy Outer Shelf

NT

PP

49.1

13.5

37.4

Agulhas Rocky Outer Shelf

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Agulhas Sandy Inner Shelf

VU

MP

0.0

0.0

100.0

Agulhas Sandy Mid Shelf

NT

MP

35.8

21.1

43.0

Agulhas Sheltered Rocky Shore

EN

MP

1.3

50.6

48.1

Agulhas Very Exposed Rocky Shore

VU

MP

16.5

82.0

1.5

Alphard Bank

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Central Agulhas Outer Shelf Mosaic

LC

MP

92.8

7.2

0.0

Warm Temperate Predominantly Open

VU

PP

39.8

8.3

52.0

Warm Temperate Small Temporarily Closed

LC

PP

18.7

79.7

1.6

Western Agulhas Bay

EN

PP

0.0

9.4

90.6

Other Features

  • Endemic, threatened, and commercially important fish species
  • Stylasterine corals, black corals, gorgonians, wall sponges, and kelp
  • Squid
  • Loggerhead turtles
  • Leatherback turtles

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Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • There are 17 pressures present in this EBSA, of which shipping is the only one that covers the entire EBSA extent and has the highest cumulative pressure profile.
  • Key pressures in this EBSA that most directly impact the features for which the EBSA is described include: inshore and offshore trawling, linefishing, small pelagic fishing, and squid fishing. These activities cover discrete portions of the EBSA, and are mostly concentrated in the shallower waters. These activities will need to be managed particularly well in order to protect the fragile benthic biodiversity, nursery habitats, and fish assemblages for which this EBSA is recognised. For most of these pressures, the larger portion of the activity is in the Impact Management Zone.

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Map of cumulative pressure from all activities in the EBSA and surrounds. Darker reds indicate higher pressure intensity.

 

Pressure (in arbitrary cumulative pressure units, CPUs) summed for each pressure in the EBSA, per proposed EBSA biodiversity zone, ranked left (highest) to right (lowest) by the overall relative importance of pressures in this EBSA. Note that pressures from south coast rock lobster harvesting to recreational shore angling each comprise <1% of the EBSA pressure profile.

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Management Interventions Needed for the EBSA

Improved place-based protection of EBSA features should be pursued. In support of this, the EBSA is divided into a Biodiversity Conservation Zone and an Environmental Impact Management Zone, both comprising several areas within the EBSA. The aim of the Biodiversity Conservation Zone is to secure core areas of key biodiversity features in natural / near-natural ecological condition. Strict place-based biodiversity conservation is thus directed at securing key biodiversity features in a natural or semi-natural state, or as near to this state as possible. Activities or uses that have significant biodiversity impacts are incompatible with the management objective of this zone. If the activity is permitted, it would require alternative Biodiversity Conservation Zones or offsets to be identified. If this is not possible, it is recommended that the activity is Prohibited. Where possible and appropriate, the Biodiversity Conservation Zones should be considered for formal protection e.g., Marine Protected Areas or Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures (OECM). The aim of the Environmental Impact Management Zone is to manage negative impacts on key biodiversity features where strict place-based measures are not practical or not essential. In this zone, the focus is management of impacts on key biodiversity features in a mixed-use area, with the objective to keep biodiversity features in at least a functional state. Activities or uses that have significant biodiversity impacts should be strictly controlled and/or regulated. Within this zone, ideally there should be no increase in the intensity of use or the extent of the footprint of activities that have significant biodiversity impacts. Where possible, biodiversity impacts should be reduced.

As far as possible, the Biodiversity Conservation Zone was designed deliberately to avoid conflicts with existing activities. There are also four MPAs that are wholly or partially within the EBSA: De Hoop MPA; Agulhas Mud MPA; Stilbaai MPA; and Agulhas Bank Complex MPA. Activities permitted within these MPAs are not considered as part of the EBSA management recommendations because these are given as per the respective gazetted regulations of the MPAs, available here: De Hoop MPA; Agulhas Mud MPA; Stilbaai MPA; and Agulhas Bank Complex MPA.

 

Proposed zonation of the EBSA into Conservation (medium green) and Impact Management (light green) Zones. MPAs are overlaid in orange outlines, with the extent within the EBSA given in dark green. Click on each of the zones to view the proposed management recommendations.

 

Protection of features in the rest of the Conservation Zone may require additional Marine Protected Area declaration/expansion. Other effective conservation measures should also be applied via Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) to ensure that the existing activities/uses are appropriately controlled to ensure compatibility of activities with the environmental requirements for achieving the management objectives of the EBSA Biodiversity Conservation and Environmental Impact Management Zones.

Based on the compatibility of sea-use activities with the management objective of each EBSA zone (see table below, from the sea-use guidelines of the National Coastal and Marine Spatial Biodiversity Plan), it is recommended for MSP that compatible activities are managed as General activities, which are those that are permitted and regulated by current general rules and legislation. Activities that are conditional are recommended to be managed as Consent activities, which are those that can continue in the zone subject to specific regulations and controls, e.g., to avoid unacceptable impacts on biodiversity features, or to avoid intensification or expansion of impact footprints of uses that are already occurring and where there are no realistic prospects of excluding these activities. Activities that are not compatible are recommended to be Prohibited, where such activities are not allowed or should not be allowed (which may be through industry-specific regulations) because they are incompatible with maintaining the biodiversity objectives of the zone. These recommendations are subject to stakeholder negotiation through the MSP process, recognizing that there will likely need to be significant compromises among sectors. It is emphasized, as noted above, that if activities that are not compatible with the respective EBSA zones are permitted, it would require alternative Biodiversity Conservation Zones or offsets to be identified. If this is not possible, it is recommended that the activity is Prohibited.

 

List of all sea-use activities, grouped by their Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) zones, and scored according to their compatibility with the management objective of the EBSA’s Biodiversity Conservation Zone (i.e., Critical Biodiversity Area, CBA) and Environmental Impact Management Zone (i.e., Ecological Support Area, ESA). Activity compatibility is given as Y = yes, compatible, C = conditional or N = not compatible, with major activities that are present in the EBSA shaded in grey.

There are also some pressures on biodiversity features within the EBSA that originate from activities outside of these EBSA or beyond the jurisdiction of MSP. In support of maintaining the ecological integrity of and benefits delivered by the key biodiversity features, these other activities need to be appropriately managed by complementary initiatives.

 

Recommendations for other activities beyond the jurisdiction of MSP management to support securing key biodiversity features within the EBSA.

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Activity Evaluation Per Zone: Zoning Feasibility

[To be updated]

Proposed zonation of the EBSA, with the cumulative intensity footprint of activities within the EBSA (sorted highest to lowest) given relative to the national footprint of those activities to illustrate feasibility of management interventions.

Even though more than half of the country’s inshore trawling takes place within this EBSA, almost all of it falls within the Impact Management Zone where it is recommended to continue in the EBSA as a Consent activity. Offshore trawling is much more limited and is present in only the Impact Management Zone, where it is also recommended to be a Consent activity. Both inshore and offshore trawling are not compatible with the management objectives of the Conservation Zone, and thus are recommended to be Prohibited in this zone. Oyster and abalone harvesting take place in the EBSA, but these activities are not accurately mapped and the proportion of the national footprint within the EBSA is likely much lower than is presented. Notwithstanding, the proposed EBSA zoning does accommodate for both of these harvesting activities in the Conservation and Impact Management Zones, where they are recommended to be Consent activities. Other fishing activities, like commercial and recreational linefishing and small pelagic fishing are also recommended to be Consent activities within both EBSA zones. The same recommendation is given for subsistence harvesting, recreational shore angling and south coast rock lobster harvesting.

Oil and gas (exploration and production) are largely within the Impact Management Zone; this activity is recommended to continue as a Consent activity in both EBSA zones. The other activities that fall within this EBSA are a very small component of their respective national footprints, and are mostly within the Impact Management Zone. These activities are all recommended to continue as Consent activities, with relevant regulations and controls. Shipping is recommended to continue in both the Conservation and Impact Management Zone under current general rules and legislation. Thus, in all cases, the proposed EBSA zonation has no or minimal impact on the national footprint for the listed marine activities.

There are also several activities that are largely outside the EBSA but have downstream impacts to the biodiversity within the EBSA, e.g., from mean annual runoff reduction, coastal development, coastal disturbance, and wastewater discharge. The impacts should be managed, but principally fall outside the direct management and zoning of the EBSA. These existing activities are proposed as Consent activities for both EBSA zones, with the exception of wastewater discharge, which is recommended to continue within the Impact Management Zone as a Consent activity, but is recommended to be Prohibited in the Conservation Zone because it is currently not present in that zone. Although these activities originate beyond the EBSA, they should ideally be dealt with in complementary integrated coastal zone management in support of the EBSA. For example, investment in eradicating the alien invasive species could aid in improving the ecological condition of rocky and mixed shores, improving benefits for subsistence and recreational harvesting; and rehabilitation of degraded dunes and formalising access points could support improved habitat for nesting shorebirds, and enhanced benefits for coastal protection during storm surges. Similarly, improved estuary management through development of appropriate freshwater flow requirements, estuarine management plans and wastewater management regulations can improve the ecological condition of the surrounding marine environment, in turn, improving water quality and safe conditions for human recreation.

 

Research Needs

There are no specific research needs for this EBSA in addition to those for all EBSAs.

 

Future Process

Portions of the EBSA have been gazetted for inclusion into the Agulhas Muds MPA and the Agulhas Bank Complex MPA. It is unclear if this EBSA will be subject to detailed attention in the MARISMA EBSA status assessment and management options workplan.

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