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

Tsitsikamma-Robberg is significant coastal area because it includes South Africa’s oldest MPA, with the conferred protection securing a particularly rich diversity including fragile (corals) and slow-growing (sparids) species. The EBSA also includes several priority estuaries, which enhances its nursery function, and supports numerous bird species. Many threatened species occur here, including an Endangered endemic seahorse.

Click here for the full EBSA description

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

Tsitsikamma-Robberg has a myriad of features and 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 life history stages, importance for threatened species and habitats, vulnerability and sensitivity, and biological diversity. There are 19 ecosystem types represented, many of which contain fragile, habitat-forming species that are especially sensitive to damage, as well as slow-growing species, like sparids. There are also many threatened species and some threatened ecosystem types in the EBSA, from the Endangered endemic seahorse to some of the abundant top predators (sharks, cetaceans and marine mammals). The five largest estuaries in the EBSA support important life-history stages of many species.

 

Tsitsikamma-Robberg proportion of area in each ecological condition category.

 

Ecological condition in Tsitsikamma-Robberg is split roughly equally among the three categories: 37% good, 35% fair and 28% poor ecological condition. Consequently, the bulk of the EBSA is Near Threatened (62%) or Least Concern (23%). However, the inshore areas, are more threatened; with 11% of the EBSA comprising Vulnerable ecosystem types, and 4%, Endangered ecosystem types.

 

 Tsitsikamma-Robberg proportion of area in each ecosystem threat status category.

 

Tsitsikamma-Robberg proportion of area in a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

 

Protection of features in MPAs has not changed since the proclamation of the Operation Phakisa MPA network, with the EBSA area within reserves remaining at 13%. However, parts of Tsitsikamma MPA have been opened to recreational fishing, such that protection in some ways has declined in this area. Although many of the ecosystem types are well or moderately protected, there are still some that are poorly 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

Agulhas Boulder Shore

NT

WP

26.0

74.0

0.0

Agulhas Dissipative Intermediate Sandy Shore

LC

WP

53.3

5.3

41.4

Agulhas Exposed Rocky Shore

VU

MP

25.1

63.3

11.6

Agulhas Inner Shelf Mosaic

VU

MP

46.4

31.6

22.0

Agulhas Inner Shelf Reef

LC

WP

52.4

40.7

6.9

Agulhas Intermediate Sandy Shore

LC

MP

83.4

1.3

15.3

Agulhas Mid Shelf Reef

VU

MP

47.5

52.5

0.0

Agulhas Mixed Shore

NT

MP

18.4

54.8

26.7

Agulhas Sandy Mid Shelf

NT

MP

29.6

31.3

39.0

Agulhas Sandy Outer Shelf

VU

PP

85.9

14.1

0.0

Agulhas Sheltered Rocky Shore

EN

MP

0.0

75.2

24.8

Agulhas Very Exposed Rocky Shore

VU

MP

11.4

81.0

7.6

Eastern Agulhas Outer Shelf Mosaic

LC

PP

59.7

37.9

2.5

Warm Temperate Estuarine Bay

VU

MP

15.3

10.0

74.7

Warm Temperate Large Temporarily Closed

VU

PP

90.0

0.0

10.0

Warm Temperate Predominantly Open

VU

PP

66.5

5.4

28.2

Warm Temperate Small Fluvially Dominated

LC

WP

86.7

13.0

0.2

Warm Temperate Small Temporarily Closed

LC

PP

8.1

78.1

13.8

Western Agulhas Bay

EN

PP

6.7

75.7

17.6

Other Features

  • Fragile and sensitive species that are slow growing, including both habitat-forming reef species, as well as animals such as sparids.
  • Boulder reefs that appear to be a unique ecosystem type in South Africa, supporting abundant carpenter, panga and giant octopus communities
  • Key populations of top predators, including Cape fur seals, sharks, seabirds and cetaceans, including sites for feeding and breeding (e.g., Southern right whale breeding area, and a breeding colony of Cape fur seals at Robberg)
  • Most of the EBSA is backed by the terrestrial Garden Route National Park, and it forms part of the much larger Garden Route Biosphere Reserve
  • Tsitsikamma-Plettenberg Bay Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, within which at least 300 species of birds have been recorded
  • Endemic Endangered seahorse

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Relevant Pressures and Activities (impact, extent)

  • There are 18 pressures present in this EBSA, of which shipping is the only one that covers the entire EBSA extent; however, linefishing has the highest cumulative pressure profile.
  • Key pressures in this EBSA that most directly impact the features for which the EBSA is described include: oyster harvesting, alien invasive species, coastal development, inshore trawling, coastal disturbance, squid fishing, linefishing (commercial and recreational), abalone harvesting, wastewater discharge, subsistence harvesting, recreational shore angling, oil and gas (exploration and production), shipping, ports and harbours, benthic (hake) longlining, south coast rock lobster harvesting, offshore trawling, small pelagics 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 and reefs, fish assemblages and top predators for which this EBSA is recognised. For most of these pressures, the larger portion of the activity is located in the Impact Management Zone.
  • Eleven of the 17 pressures each comprise <1% of the EBSA pressure profile, including: benthic (hake) longlining, south coast rock lobster harvesting, oyster harvesting, wastewater discharge, offshore trawling, abalone harvesting, recreational shore angling, subsistence harvesting, oil and gas (exploration and production), ports and harbours, and small pelagics fishing. Note that some of these are coastal pressures, and despite comprising a small extent of the EBSA, can overlap with and impact substantial portions of the small-extent ecosystem types in which they occur, e.g., shore-based recreational fishing.
  • Activities in South Africa that are not present in this EBSA include: beach seining, dredge spoil dumping, gillnetting, kelp harvesting, mariculture, mean annual runoff reduction, midwater trawling, mining (prospecting and mining), naval dumping (ammunition), pelagic longlining, tuna pole fishing, prawn trawling, shark netting, 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 pressures from coastal development to small pelagics fishing each comprise <1.2% 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: Goukamma MPA; Robberg MPA; and Tsitiskamma MPA. The activities permitted within these MPAs are not considered as part of the EBSA management recommendations because these are as per their respective gazetted regulations. Note that there are also several terrestrial Nature Reserves (including several privately-owned Nature Reserves) and the Garden Route National Park that are adjacent to the EBSA, and in some places, overlap with the estuarine area of the EBSA.

 

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.

Most of the activities in the EBSA relate to coastal (generally shore-based) biological resource use, including: oyster harvesting, abalone harvesting, subsistence harvesting, recreational shore angling, linefishing (commercial and recreational) and south coast rock lobster harvesting. All of these activities are recommended to continue in both EBSA zone as Consent activities. Inshore trawling and, to a lesser extent, offshore trawling are present in the EBSA; they are recommended to continue in the Impact Management Zone, but are incompatible activities with the Conservation Zone, where, after revised zoning, they currently do not exist and are recommended to be Prohibited. Squid fishing is an important activity in this EBSA and is recommended to continue as a Consent activity in both EBSA zones. Other fisheries present in the EBSA that comprise a small fraction of their respective national footprints include: benthic (hake) longlining, south coast rock lobster harvesting and small pelagics fishing, all of which are recommended to continue as Consent activities in both EBSA zones. Oil and gas (exploration and production) are also present in the EBSA, exclusively in the Impact Management Zone where it is recommended to continue as a Consent activity; because it currently does not occur in the Conservation Zone, it is recommended to be Prohibited from that zone. Some of the country’s ports and harbours also occur in the area but these are exclusively within the MPAs and thus are beyond the management recommendations of the EBSA zones. Shipping is recommended to continue 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 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, 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, 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

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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