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

Protea Seamount Cluster is a group of seamounts in the south Atlantic abyss off the SSW flank of the Agulhas continental shelf. It is a relatively rare feature in the area that has higher productivity than the adjacent abyssal habitats, and is thus an attractive site for foraging migratory species. The seamounts also support fragile, sensitive ecosystems and species. The area is in a natural state because it has been exposed to very few pressures.

Click here for the full EBSA description

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

Protea Seamount Cluster contains key seamounts that need to be protected for the area to maintain characteristics that give it its EBSA status. The criteria for which this EBSA ranks highly are: vulnerability and sensitivity, and naturalness. There are five ecosystem types represented, some of which contain fragile species that are especially sensitive to damage. The area is more productive than the surrounding abyss, making it an attractive foraging site for migratory species, such as turtles and sharks. 

Protea Seamount Cluster proportion of area in each ecological condition category.

 

The area is relatively remote and often subjected to high seas with winds of around 50 knots, which means that it has been subjected to few pressures in the past, so it is still in a natural state. Agulhas Bank Nursery Area is entirely in good ecological condition (100%); as noted above, it is a highly natural site. Consequently, the whole EBSA comprises ecosystem types that are all Least Concern (100%).

 

Protea Seamount Cluster proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.

 

Protea Seamount Cluster 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 49%. These new MPAs cover important named seamounts within the cluster, including Protea Seamount itself. However, there are still ecosystem types within the EBSA that are poorly 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

Cape Basin Abyss

LC

PP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Cape Basin Complex Abyss

LC

PP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Southeast Atlantic Lower Slope

LC

NP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Southeast Atlantic Seamount

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Southeast Atlantic Slope Seamount

LC

WP

100.0

0.0

0.0

Other Features

  • Fragile species associated with the seamounts
  • Foraging migratory species, such as turtles (leatherbacks in particular) and sharks

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Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • Given the remote location of the EBSA and often challenging conditions (heavy seas and strong winds) in the area, shipping is the only activity that is currently present in this EBSA.
  • Pressures that don’t occur in the EBSA that are present in South Africa include: abalone harvesting, alien invasive species, beach seining, benthic (hake) longlining, coastal development, coastal disturbance, dredge spoil dumping, gillnetting, inshore trawling, kelp harvesting, linefishing (commercial and recreational), mariculture, mean annual runoff reduction, midwater trawling, mining (prospecting and mining), naval dumping (ammunition), offshore trawling, oil and gas (exploration and production), oyster harvesting, pelagic longlining, ports and harbours, prawn trawling, recreational shore angling, shark netting, small pelagics fishing, south coast rock lobster harvesting, squid fishing, subsistence harvesting, tuna pole fishing, wastewater discharge, west coast rock lobster harvesting; noting that some of these are coastal pressures that do not apply to offshore EBSAs.

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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 the only pressure in the EBSA, per proposed EBSA biodiversity zone.

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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.

The full EBSA extent is a Biodiversity Conservation Zone given the relative importance of the biodiversity and features within the area, and because there are so few competing uses by other stakeholders. Ideally, no new pressures should be introduced into the EBSA. It also has one MPA that is partially within the EBSA: South East Atlantic Seamounts MPA. 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). 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.

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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 given relative to the national footprint of those activities to illustrate feasibility of management interventions.

Shipping is the only activity that takes place within this EBSA, the extent of which comprises a fraction of the national footprint of shipping. It is recommended to continue under current general rules and legislation. Thus, in all cases, the EBSA zonation has no 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. However, given that so little is known about the site from in-situ sampling, the need to address the general research needs is emphasised. This is especially important for informing appropriate management of the site.

 

Future Process

Portions of the EBSA have been gazetted for inclusion into the Southeast Atlantic Seamounts 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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