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

Namaqua Coastal Area is characterized by high productivity (due to upwelling) and community biomass along its shores. It is subject to relatively low pressures compared to other areas in the Northern Cape, and thus is an excellent place to protect portions of threatened ecosystem types that are in good ecological condition. There are three priority estuaries adjacent to the site. It is also important for coastal fish communities.


Click here for the full EBSA description


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

Namaqua Coastal Area has a several features and threatened ecosystem types that need to be protected for the area to maintain the characteristics that give it its EBSA status. The criteria for which this EBSA ranks highly are: importance for threatened species and habitats, biological productivity and naturalness. There are 13 ecosystem types represented, of which mosaic and rocky shore ecosystem types contain fragile species that are especially sensitive to damage. Along with the adjacent estuaries, 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. The area is important for coastal fish, roosting and breeding birds, and resting sites for seals.

Namaqua Coastal Area proportion of area in each ecological condition category.


Given that the adjacent land is a terrestrial reserve, Namaqua Coastal Area is almost entirely in good ecological condition (98%), with fractions that are in fair (2%) and poor (<1%) ecological condition. Consequently, almost the whole EBSA comprises ecosystem types that are Least Concern (99%), with fractions that are Endangered (<1%) and Vulnerable (<1%).


Namaqua Coastal Area proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.


Namaqua Coastal 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 from no protection to 16%. The new MPA is the first and only MPA along South Africa’s west coast (north of Langebaan Lagoon and adjacent islands), and the only coastal reserve in the Namaqua ecoregion. Consequently, many of the represented ecosystem types are still poorly protected overall, although some are now moderately protected, and one is well 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

Cool Temperate Arid Predominantly Closed






Namaqua Exposed Rocky Shore






Namaqua Kelp Forest






Namaqua Mixed Shore






Namaqua Muddy Mid Shelf Mosaic






Namaqua Muddy Sands






Namaqua Sandy Inner Shelf






Namaqua Sandy Mid Shelf






Namaqua Very Exposed Rocky Shore






Southern Benguela Dissipative Intermediate Sandy Shore






Southern Benguela Intermediate Sandy Shore






Southern Benguela Reflective Sandy Shore






Southern Benguela Sandy Outer Shelf






Other Features

  • Three estuarine areas
  • Importance for coastal fish, including nurseries for commercially important species
  • Upwelling
  • Breeding and roosting sites for shorebirds and seabirds (e.g., African black oystercatcher, cormorants)
  • Seals



Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • There are 13 pressures present in this EBSA, of which shipping is the only one that covers the entire EBSA extent; mean annual runoff reduction follows closely in spatial overlap with the EBSA, and has the highest cumulative pressure profile (followed by shipping).
  • Key pressures in this EBSA that most directly impact the features for which the EBSA is described include: mean annual runoff reduction, mining (prospecting and mining), linefishing, invasive species, coastal disturbance (recreational activities that, for example, would disturb breeding, roosting or foraging birds) and subsistence harvesting. These activities tend to cover discrete portions of the EBSA, and will need to be managed particularly well in order to protect the nursery habitats, fish assemblages, and coastal (including intertidal) benthic communities, and birds for which this EBSA is recognised.
  • Eight of the 13 pressures each comprise <1% of the EBSA pressure profile, including: coastal disturbance, subsistence harvesting, oil and gas (exploration and production), recreational shore angling, kelp harvesting, tuna pole fishing, gillnetting, and west coast rock lobster harvesting.
  • Activities in South Africa that are not present in this EBSA include: abalone harvesting, beach seining, benthic (hake) longlining, coastal development, dredge spoil dumping, mariculture, midwater trawling, naval dumping (ammunition), oyster harvesting, pelagic longlining, ports and harbours, prawn trawling, shark netting, small pelagics fishing, south coast rock lobster harvesting, squid fishing, inshore trawling, offshore trawling, and wastewater discharge.


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 subsistence harvesting to wetst 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.

However, the biodiversity value of this EBSA is so high at a national level that it comprises a single Conservation Zone, which is partly covered by a new Marine Protected Area adjacent to the Namaqua National Park. 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 the 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). 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.



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.

The area has had significant historical value for South Africa’s mining industry, and although most areas are mined out, some activity still occurs in the area (13.5% of the national footprint), most of which is in the new Namaqua National Park MPA, and is recommended to continue as a Consent activity in the EBSA Conservation Zone. It is important that mining (prospecting and mining) is strictly controlled in the EBSA because the west coast of the country is heavily impacted by mining, and this is one of the few areas in this bioregion where the shores and associated biodiversity are still in fair ecological condition. Fishing and harvesting activities are accommodated in the EBSA, with subsistence harvesting, kelp harvesting, recreational shore angling, gillnetting, linefishing (commercial and recreational), west coast rocklobster harvesting and tuna pole fishing recommended to continue as Consent activities. Oil and gas (exploration and production) activities within the EBSA comprise a very small proportion of the national footprint, and are recommended to continue as a Consent activity. 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 and coastal disturbance. 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, recognising that 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 and estuarine management plans 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 Namaqua National Park 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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