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Climate Change tops agenda at Benguela Current Commission Ministerial Meeting

by Sithembile Siziba
15 Dec 2016 at 17:59hrs | Views
Delegates at the 5th BCC Ministerial conference in Swakopmund, Namibia. Photo © FAO/
Swakopmund - Key ministries from three countries that make up the Benguela current marine system - Angola, Namibia and South Africa converged last week in Swakopmund, Namibia for the commission's 5th inter-ministerial conference. The Benguela Current Commission (BCC) is a multi-sectorial, inter-governmental initiative consisting of the three countries. The ministerial conference is the highest policy-making body of the BCC and plays a pivotal role in assessing the challenges surrounding the implementation of the commission's strategic action programme.

The 2016 BCC ministerial conference ran under the theme ‘Our Ocean, Our Heritage, Our Future', bringing attention to the commission's vision of promoting sustainable utilization of marine resources in the Benguela current marine system and the need to make fisheries resilient to effects of climate change.

The fisheries sectors in the three countries are facing serious challenges to ensure sustainable use of the productive but vulnerable marine resources supporting them. These include over-exploitation of resources by fisheries, impacts on the aquatic ecosystems from land and marine resource use within other sectors including coastal zone development and offshore mining as well as oil and gas extraction. All these negatively affect the integrity, resilience and productivity of the ecosystem. Decreased productivity of fishery resources can cause an enormous impact on the livelihoods and food security of communities that are dependent on them.

The one-day ministerial conference witnessed the official handover of the BCC chair by the outgoing chairperson, Victoria de Barros Neto from Angola, to the Namibian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau. Speaking at the conference, the outgoing chairperson highlighted the potential of the joint commitment to enhance climate change resilience and to improve sustainable management of the region. "Our coastal communities are already being affected by a combination of ocean warming, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, salt-water intrusions, ocean acidification and subsequent changes to the resources they depend on for food and livelihoods," she said. Neto also pointed out the importance of adopting various marine legislations that govern harvesting, conservation and protection of marine resources as part of the ministerial conference's commitment to the overall goals of the commission.

In his acceptance speech as the incoming BCC chair, Esau reaffirmed the importance of the conference theme. "The current generation should continue to promote the harvesting of marine resources sustainably to ensure that the future generation will also enjoy the same benefit they are enjoying today from these resources," he said. "We also committed to a multi-sectorial collaboration where environment, fisheries, transport, minerals and energy are working together to protect, preserve and utilize our ecosystem sustainably while unlocking the economic potential, and realizing the socio-economic benefits" added Esau. Evident to this collaboration was the presence of ministers from the different countries' transport and energy ministries.

The BCC is the first organization in the world to have a convention based on the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) concept. The concept uses the LME as a tool for enabling ecosystem-based management to provide a collaborative approach to management of resources within ecologically bounded transnational areas

FAO pledges continued support to enhancing climate change resilience in the Benguela system

In his speech, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri, said FAO's mission for the sector was to facilitate and secure the long-term sustainable development and utilization of the world's fisheries and aquaculture resources. "Fisheries and their dependent communities are at the frontline of climate change impacts. We must safeguard the most vulnerable who rely on the sector - already under stress from pollution, habitat degradation, overfishing and harmful practices - from greater threats caused by climate variability", he said. Phiri further noted how the fisheries and aquaculture sectors were important in fostering global and national sustainable food security, alleviating poverty in fishing and rural communities through employment and income generation.

Over the years, the Food and Agriculture Organization has been assisting the three countries in the commission to develop a climate adaptation project to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability to climate change of the marine fisheries and aquaculture sectors. For example, a five-year project, "Enhancing Climate Change Resilience in the Benguela Current Fisheries System," funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) which will be executed through the regional body. FAO is also providing additional resources through a project, which will strengthen the capacity of the BCC countries to undertake rapid vulnerability assessments and to increase the resilience of fisheries systems to climate change. Phiri pledged the organization's continued support to the BCC and its member states in achieving sustainable development for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of the Benguela resources.

Contact: Sithembile Siziba FAO Southern Africa Communications

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