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

Browns Bank is an important fish spawning area for both demersal and pelagic species, which links to the nursery grounds in the Agulhas Bank Nursery Area EBSA. The area contains fragile reef-building cold-water corals and untrawled hard grounds, and is the only place where a Critically Endangered gravel ecosystem type exists. The shelf edge area is also important for many seabirds, and covers two proposed Important Bird Areas.

Click here for the full EBSA description


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

Browns Bank has several key features and ecosystem types that need to be protected for the area to maintain the features and processes that give it its EBSA status. There are six ecosystem types represented, of which the Browns Bank Rocky Shelf Edge and the mosaic (matrix of hard and soft substrate) ecosystem types contain fragile species that are especially sensitive to damage, especially reef-building cold-water corals.


Browns Bank proportion of area in each ecological condition category.


Browns Bank is heavily impacted, and largely in poor ecological condition (72%), with some portions that are fair (26%), and only a fraction (2%) that is in good ecological condition. Despite this, the bulk of the area (79%) and ecosystem types (5 of 6) are Least Concern because the ecosystems extend beyond this area where they are less impacted. However, the 21% that is Critically Endangered makes up a large part of the remaining extent of the Browns Bank Rocky Shelf Edge ecosystem type.


 Browns Bank proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.


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


Protection afforded to this EBSA, and particularly Browns Bank Rocky Shelf Edge, occurred for the first time following the proclamation of the Operation Phakisa MPA network, with the EBSA area within reserves increasing from no protection to 6%. These new MPAs cover portions of the Critically Endangered Browns Bank Rocky Shelf Edge, raising its protection level to Moderately Protected.


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


Threat Status

Protection Level

Condition (%)




Ecosystem Types

Agulhas Plateau Mosaic






Browns Bank Rocky Shelf Edge






Eastern Agulhas Outer Shelf Mosaic






Southeast Atlantic Upper Slope






Southern Benguela Sandy Outer Shelf






Southwest Indian Upper Slope






Other Features

  • Fragile reef-building cold-water corals and untrawled hard grounds containing fragile species, e.g., brisingid sea stars
  • Fish spawning area for demersal and pelagic species
  • Upwelling areas
  • Two proposed Marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, namely for Cory’s Shearwater and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross
  • Other seabirds, e.g., Wandering, Shy, Black-browed, and Atlantic yellownose albatrosses and Pintado petrels



Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • There are seven pressures present in this EBSA, of which shipping and pelagic longlining cover the entire EBSA extent, with pelagic longlining and offshore trawling having the highest cumulative pressure profiles.
  • Key pressures in this EBSA that most directly impact the features for which the EBSA is described include: pelagic longlining, offshore trawling and hake longlining. These activities will need to be managed particularly well in order to protect the fragile benthic biodiversity, fish spawning areas and seabirds (in terms of mitigating bycatch) for which this EBSA is recognised. For all of these pressures, though, the larger portion of the activity is located in the Impact Management Zone.
  • Three of the seven pressures each comprise <1% of the EBSA pressure profile, including: linefishing, midwater trawling, and south coast rock lobster harvesting.
  • Activities in South Africa that are not present in this EBSA include: inshore trawling, squid fishing, small pelagics fishing, ports and harbours, alien invasive species, mean annual runoff reduction, coastal disturbance, coastal development, wastewater discharge, oil and gas (exploration and production), recreational shore angling, abalone harvesting, subsistence harvesting, mariculture, naval dumping (ammunition), oyster harvesting, mining (prospecting and mining), shark netting, prawn trawling, tuna pole fishing, kelp harvesting, gillnetting, west coast rock lobster harvesting, dredge spoil dumping, beach seining; noting that some of these are coastal pressures that do not apply to offshore EBSAs.



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 linefishing (commercial and recreational) to south coast rock lobster harvesting each comprise <1% of the EBSA pressure profile.



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. The EBSA also includes the Browns Bank Corals MPA that is wholly within the EBSA. The activities permitted within this MPA are not considered as part of the EBSA management recommendations because these are as per the gazetted regulations.


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.



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.

There are seven key activities within this EBSA, most of which comprise a negligible component of the national footprint, and are recommended to continue with relevant regulations and controls as Consent activities. Only three activities comprise more than 5% of the national footprint: benthic (hake) longlining, offshore trawling, and pelagic longlining. Most of their footprint is within the Impact Management Zone where they are recommended to continue as Consent activities. Benthic (hake) longlining and pelagic longlining are recommended to be Consent activities in the Conservation Zone as well, however, offshore trawling is not compatible with the Conservation Zone and is recommended to be Prohibited in that zone. Shipping is recommended to continue in both the Conservation and Impact Management Zone under current general rules and legislation. In all cases, the EBSA zonation has no or minimal impact on the national footprint for the listed marine activities.


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 Brown Bank Corals 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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