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

Delagoa Shelf Edge, Canyons and Slope is in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a Ramsar and World Heritage Site, with a recently extended MPA (South Africa), and the Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve (Mozambique). It includes numerous pristine ecosystems and a rich diversity of species, including coelacanths. It also supports key life-history stages of a plethora of threatened species, and encompasses fragile corals and sponges.

Click here for the full EBSA description

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The proposed zonation and recommended management in transboundary EBSAs is split at the national borders, with each country responsible for EBSA management in their own jurisdiction only. Engaging with Mozambique regarding Delagoa Shelf Edge, Canyons and Slope was beyond the scope of the MARISMA Project. Therefore, the whole status assessment and proposed management is given for only South Africa's portion of this EBSA.

 

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

Delagoa Shelf Edge, Canyons and Slope is a transboundary EBSA, shared with Mozambique, that 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: importance for life history stages, importance for threatened species and habitats, and naturalness. There are 17 ecosystem types represented in the South African portion of the EBSA, including ecosystem types like coral reefs and canyons that contain fragile, habitat-forming species. The EBSA is also critical for turtle nesting and foraging, and supports important life-history stages for numerous linefish, coelacanths, cetaceans and sharks, many of which species are also threatened.


Delagoa Shelf Edge, Canyons and Slope proportion of area in each ecological condition category.

 

Delagoa Shelf Edge, Canyons and Slope is mostly in good ecological condition (69%), with a small portion that is fair (3%), and <1% in poor ecological condition (noting that 28% of the EBSA extent is in Mozambique and thus was not assessed here). Consequently, the bulk of the EBSA is Least Concern (71%), with 1% and <1% that is Vulnerable and Endangered respectively. 

 

Delagoa Shelf Edge, Canyons and Slope proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.

 

Delagoa Shelf Edge, Canyons and Slope proportion of area in a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

 

Protection of features in MPAs in South Africa has been considerably expanded and strengthened following the proclamation of the Operation Phakisa MPA network, with the EBSA area in South Africa within reserves increasing dramatically from 3% to 58% (42% of the full EBSA extent). The new protection is as a result of offshore expansion of the iSimangaliso MPA. Although most ecosystem types in the EBSA are Well Protected, and almost all the rest are Moderately Protected, there are two ecosystem types that are either Poorly Protected or Not Protected.

 

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

Delagoa Deep Shelf Edge

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Delagoa Lower Canyon

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Delagoa Rocky Mid Shelf

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Delagoa Sandy Inner Shelf

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Delagoa Sandy Mid Shelf

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Delagoa Shelf Edge

LC

WP

98.7

1.3

0.0

Delagoa Upper Canyon

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

KZN Bight Muddy Shelf Edge

VU

MP

35.2

63.6

1.2

KZN Bight Deep Shelf Edge

EN

MP

3.4

95.5

1.0

KZN Bight Outer Shelf Mosaic

VU

MP

0.0

68.5

31.5

Leadsman Coral Community

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Southwest Indian Lower Slope

LC

NP

89.8

10.2

0.0

Southwest Indian Mid Slope

LC

PP

96.3

3.7

0.0

Southwest Indian Upper Slope

LC

WP

97.9

2.1

0.0

St Lucia Mid Shelf Mosaic

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

St Lucia Sandy Inner Shelf

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

St Lucia Sandy Mid Shelf

VU

MP

60.2

35.0

4.8

Other Features

  • Four species of turtles, two resident foraging species (juveniles) and two migratory nesting species (adults); all species are threatened
  • Coelacanths
  • Breeding, foraging and/or transiting areas for numerous species of sharks, dolphins and whales
  • Many important linefish species (e.g., sparids)
  • Fragile and/or habitat-forming species, e.g., reef-forming corals, sponges, starfish
  • Sites that support important life history stages of fish and crustaceans

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Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • There are five 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: pelagic longlining, recreational and commercial linefishing, prawn trawling and mean annual runoff reduction. These activities will need to be managed particularly well in order to protect the nursery habitats, fish assemblages and focal species, such as turtles (caught as bycatch), for which this EBSA is recognised. Ship strikes by passing vessels are also a risk to animals like turtles and whales. The commercial fishing pressures are in the Impact Management Zone, however, recreational linefishing is permitted in certain parts of iSimangaliso Wetland Park MPA.
  • Prawn trawling and mean annual runoff reduction both comprise <1.5% of the EBSA pressure profile, and are largely linked to the health and functioning of the adjacent St Lucia estuary.
  • Activities in South Africa that are not present in this EBSA include: abalone harvesting, alien invasive species, beach seining, benthic (hake) longlining, coastal development, coastal disturbance, dredge spoil dumping, gillnetting, kelp harvesting, mariculture, midwater trawling, mining (prospecting and mining), naval dumping (ammunition), oil and gas (exploration and production), oyster harvesting, tuna pole fishing, ports and harbours, recreational shore angling, shark netting, small pelagics fishing, south coast rock lobster harvesting, squid fishing, subsistence harvesting, inshore trawling, offshore trawling, wastewater discharge, and west coast rock lobster harvesting.

 

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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 mean annual runoff reduction and prawn trawling each comprise <1.5% 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 Conservation Zone and an Impact Management Zone, both comprising several areas within the EBSA. The aim of the 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 should be prohibited. Where possible and appropriate these areas should be considered for formal protection e.g., Marine Protected Areas or other effective area-based conservation measures (OECM). The aim of the 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 which have significant biodiversity impacts should be strictly controlled and/or regulated. Within this zone, 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. It also includes one MPA that is partially within the EBSA (a small portion in the south is included in the KwaZulu-Natal Bight and uThukela River EBSA): iSimangaliso MPA, the proclamation of which in 2019 replaces and significantly expands the previous Maputaland (proclaimed in 1986) and St Lucia (proclaimed in 1979) MPAs. The activities permitted within this MPAs 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.

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.

Note also that the boundary of this EBSA was not revised given that it would have involved international engagement with Mozambique, which was beyond the scope of the current project. However, it ideally should be extended to match the extent of the iSimangaliso MPA and thus include the adjacent inshore and shore ecosystem types. Consequently, many of the shore-based activities (e.g., coastal development, coastal disturbance, recreational fishing, subsistence harvesting) that are not present and not relevant to the current EBSA boundary, are still important to regulate in support of the EBSA. Given that these activities fall within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site and MPA, they should be adequately managed through the Park regulations.

 

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.

 

All activities that occur within this EBSA comprise a small fraction of the national footprint. These activities would be permitted to continue, subject to appropriate regulations and management. It is also recognised that most of the activities are within the iSimangaliso MPA, where they are managed according to the MPA regulations. Specifically, linefishing (commercial and recreational) and prawn trawling occur only within the MPA and are recommended to be Prohibited in the EBSA Conservation and Impact Management Zones because these activities are currently not present in those zones. Pelagic longlining and shipping are the only activities that occur within the EBSA zones as well as the MPA. Pelagic longlining is recommended as a Consent activity in both EBSA zones, noting that this is one of the most important pressures to Critically Endangered leatherback turtles that come to nest on the beaches in iSimangaliso Wetland Park immediately adjacent to the EBSA during the summer. Shipping is recommended to continue in both the Conservation and Impact Management Zones under current general rules and legislation. Thus, in all cases, the 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 disturbance, and wastewater discharge. These impacts should be managed, but principally fall outside the direct management and zoning of the EBSA. These activities ideally should be and largely already are dealt with in the management plan of the adjacent iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

 

Research Needs

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

 

Future Process

It is unclear if this EBSA will be subject to detailed attention in the MARISMA EBSA status assessment and management options workplan. However, it is recommended that there is engagement with Mozambique to review this EBSA to match the update for the rest of South Africa’s EBSAs. The revision would need to include addressing the inconsistency in the western boundary stated in the description (high water mark) and the mapped boundary in the EBSA delineation (2-3 km from the shore on the inner shelf), likely resulting from the scale at which the EBSA boundary was drawn. Notably, refining the delineation to match what is recorded in the description would ensure that key biodiversity features are captured in the EBSA extent, such as critical breeding habitat for threatened species (loggerhead and leatherback nesting beaches) and reefs containing fragile species and serving as foraging areas for numerous species including juvenile turtles. Note also that these beaches comprise the full extent of the only nesting beaches for the Western Indian Ocean populations (discrete Regional Management Unit) of loggerhead and leatherback turtles.

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