Benefits of the South African Beach Driving Ban to coastal ecology

The Beach driving ban is showing many benefits

In 2002, the Government’s decision to regulate and ban beach driving around the South African coast caused a huge outcry from 4×4 enthusiasts and fishermen. Now, with a decade having passed, it is clear that this ban was the correct one to make. There is now overwhelming evidence that this was the best decision for the environment and more broadly for sustainable development and tourism growth. While there may have been an initial negative economic impact, it is clear that this trend has reversed and the stage is set for further eco-tourism opportunities to be developed.

  1. Pristine beaches, clear of vehicle tracks allow the recovery of all coastal organisms that benefit from the lack of disturbance and compacting of the substrate by the heavy vehicles.
  2. Populations of the endangered African Black Oystercatcher have benefited greatly from the ban. In the mid 1980’s, their population was at an all time low of around 4500 birds. These birds lay their eggs on sandy beaches and irresponsible beach driving destroyed many nests. Their population is recovering and now stands at around 6500 birds.

    African black oystercatcher incubating eggs on nest

  3. White Fronted Plovers and Damara Terns are two other bird species that build their nests above the high water mark. Their eggs and chicks are extremely well camouflaged and as a result vehicles driving on the beaches destroyed many nests and chicks. The White-Fronted Plover populations are recovering but Damara Tern numbers in South Africa continue to be on the decline.

    White fronted plover chick

  4. With the lack of disturbance on the beaches, many migrant wading species such as this Sanderling, are now able to re-colonize summer feeding grounds, where their invertebrate prey items are also increasing in numbers and diversity.


  5. Driving on the beaches by heavy vehicles compacted the sandy substrate and crushed many of the invertebrates that make this environment their home. These invertebrates are a crucial link in the ecological food chain.
  6. Ghost crabs populations that feed largely at night on beach detritus and burrow into the sand during the day have increased considerably since the ban. They can now be seen in good numbers feeding in the inter-tidal zone and are a good indicator of a healthy beach environment.

    Ghost Crab feeding in the surf zone

  7. 4×4 vehicles caused extensive damage to dune systems and coastal vegetation. This vegetation is crucial to stabilizing the coastal zone and helps protect the interior from storm surges.

    Umlalazi beach dunes

  8. Since the beach-driving ban has been implemented, a number of line-fish monitoring projects have been implemented to track the recovery of surf and coastal fish species, many of which are threatened through over-exploitation.

    A Blacktail is pulled to shore after being caught on line and sinker. Goukamma Marine Protected Area, Western Cape, South Africa

  9. These fish monitoring projects have clearly shown that species densities, size ranges and species diversity has increased since the beach-driving ban and this is providing improved benefits to fisheries around the South African coastline.

    Fishtagging inserting tag on Dusky Kob

  10. One of the only negative consequences of the beach-driving ban, is that it has now placed increased fishing pressure within estuaries, These estuaries are critical nursery areas for many line fish species and conservation efforts will need to ensure that over-exploitation does not occur in these areas.

    Heuningnes Estuary


Shaping the future of ocean management in South Africa
By Heather Dugmore

Juvenile African Penguin

If you travel the 65 kilometres from Gordon’s Bay to Bot River in the Western Cape, you will experience a coastline of rugged beauty that is a key breeding ground for many of South Africa’s endangered linefish (including galjoen, white and red steenbras), abalone (perlemoen) and the west coast rock lobster. This stretch also includes Stony Point, home to one of only two mainland colonies in South Africa for the African penguin, which is at risk of extinction by 2025. It is here that through the Kogelberg Coast Integrated Management Plan (KCIMP), the WWF-SA Integrated Ocean Management Programme hopes to help shape the future of ocean management in South Africa.
Peter Chadwick, manager of the programme say that “by integrating the local communities, terrestrial, coastal and marine environments into one unit within the Kogelberg Biosphere we believe we will be able to create resilient ecosystems with positive economic and social benefits for the local communities,” he explains. Many of these communities rely on the sea for their livelihoods, with approximately 300 small-scale fishers living and fishing in the area.

These fishers once regarded marine protection as something that denied them their right to a living. This has been changing over the past four years with concerted input from the coastal conservation project team, coupled with the gazetting of the Small-scale Fisheries Policy earlier this year. The policy aims to ensure that small-scale fishers are allocated their fair share of inshore resources, and the KCIMP will be one of the pilot sites that will test the policy’s implementation, as well as being a test case for the new thinking around community inclusion in marine conservation.

Catch of Carpenter

The study area extends from the Steenbras Estuary within False Bay through to the Bot River between Kleinmond and Hermanus. This area covers 65 kilometres of coastline and potentially extends as far out as 12 nautical miles (about 20 kilometres). The Bettys Bay MPA will form a core component of the larger marine managed area.

“For MPAs to succeed we have to create a sense of ownership and protection of the marine resources amongst the small-scale fishers and coastal communities,” says Chadwick.

Within the KCIMP it has been proposed that 20% of the marine resources would be protected as a no-take zone and 80% would be focused on improved resource management with preferential access for small-scale fishers who currently compete for resources with recreational fishers and transient fishers who travel to the area to catch west coast rock lobster and to take advantage of the seasonal migratory pelagic species such as cape salmon, yellowtail and snoek. “This puts pressure on what the local fishers can take out, and we need to address this in terms of sustainable fisheries practice and the new Small-scale Fisheries Policy,” says Chadwick.

Local fisherman at work

While the small-scale fishers don’t catch large amounts of fish by volume, many of their catch species are over-exploited and down to 2-3% of their original populations, including abalone, red steenbras and West Coast rock lobster.

To work towards a win-win for the local small-scale fishers and for biodiversity protection, the KCIMP will be working to ensure the correct species quota and methodologies are practised in the area to ensure food and water security for all.

“Although the focus of the KCIMP is on the marine environment we are working with a range of partners to ensure a healthy functioning of the whole area, including the local estuaries and catchment areas,” says Chadwick who explains that an integrated approach is necessary to avoid knock on effects. “For example, if you do not manage your water catchments properly – including alien plant control, fire management and controlling water extraction for farming and pollution – it has a huge negative impact on downstream water resources, with the result that your estuaries do not function properly and this, in turn, directly impacts the linefish nursery areas,” explains Chadwick.

“In the past we focused on improving the management effectiveness of the marine protected area in isolation, but in the last couple of years we have realised this cannot be successfully achieved if it is not addressed in the context of the broader land- and seascape,” he adds. Hence the plans for the formation of the Kogelberg Coastal Forum, which will include representatives from the entire community including local fishers, governing agencies and ratepayers.

West Coast Rock Lobsters

There is strong support for this initiative from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch – Oceans & Coasts, CapeNature, The Kogelberg Biosphere and Overstrand Municipality.

“Before re-engaging with the communities we first made sure that we have government support at the highest level, which we now have,” says Chadwick. “It is essential to implement the plan with official government support because a poorly enforced conservation plan is nothing but a boon to poachers, and abalone (perlemoen) poaching is a major problem in the area.” It is hoped that the formation of a strong, collaborative marine conservation plan that very much includes the local fishers and their livelihoods, will start to change this. “With the new approach to ocean management we are hoping that they will start to take ownership of their marine resources, and become part of the conservation, policing and government team that is working against poaching and towards ensuring sustainable use of our limited marine resources.”





Where people of the sea meet Marine Protected Areas
By Heather Dugmore
In their small, brightly painted boats the fishermen head out to sea. On some days they return with a haul of fresh linefish for their families and some extra to sell. On other days they return empty-handed. They rank amongst the thousands of small-scale fishers along South Africa’s coastline who work exceptionally hard for their living, and who have been practising traditional fishing and harvesting methods for generations. Which is why, when some of them were told several years back, that they could not continue because their area has been proclaimed a Marine Protected Area (MPA), they understandably felt that marine conservation and legislation was against them, and many defied the proclamation, effectively becoming poachers.
This created a deadlock between marine conservation and certain coastal communities because the small-scale fishers need fish and seafood for survival while South Africa needs MPAs (which are the breeding grounds for many marine species of national importance) to ensure a sustainable supply of fish and seafood into the future.

Towards resolving this situation the WWF Nedbank Green Trust agreed to finance The Human Dimensions Project led by WWF’s Integrated Ocean Management Programme Manager Peter Chadwick to understand the full implications of MPAs on these fisher communities, with the hope of finding sustainable solutions for all parties. As a result, in 2011, for the first time in South Africa, small-scale fishers sat around the table with conservation authorities, conservation organisations and social scientists to discuss how the small-scale fishers and coastal communities can be meaningfully included in the planning, management and benefits of MPAs – of which South Africa currently has 21.
“For MPAs to succeed we have to create a sense of ownership and protection of the marine resources amongst the small-scale fishers and coastal communities,” says Chadwick whose team includes Professor Merle Sowman and Dr Serge Raemaekers – Inshore/Small-scale Fisheries Governance, Environmental Evaluation Unit (EEU) at the University of Cape Town – and several Masters and PhD students. Each of the students is based at one of several case study sites and fisher communities along South Africa’s coastline.

These are: Hluleka MPA and Dwesa-Cwebe MPA in the Eastern Cape, Langebaan Lagoon MPA (West Coast National Park), Struisbaai/Agulhas/Kogelberg in the Western Cape and Cape Peninsula (Table Mountain MPA).

“Several are proclaimed MPAs, others are potential MPAs and others are proclaimed MPAs that will potentially be incorporated into larger marine management areas, such as the Struisbaai/Agulhas/Kogelberg area, which extends some 150 kilometres,” Chadwick explains.

The first eighteen months of this three-year project are now completed, during which time the team gathered substantial information and understanding of the communities and their perspective of the MPAs. At the same time the team investigated the socio-economic opportunities from which the communities can potentially benefit by assisting with biodiversity conservation. Very much part of this is the new Small-scale Fisheries Policy which was gazetted earlier this year to address the needs of small-scale fishers, and which will apportion inshore resources more equitably.
In the Dwesa-Cwebe region, for example, PhD student Jackie Sunde engaged fishing communities on the issue of illegal linefishing and harvesting of coastal seafood in this MPA. The small-scale fishers explained that they were never consulted about the proclamation of the MPA, which took away their livelihood. At the same time this MPA is critically important from a national conservation perspective because it is the spawning ground for species like Kob/Kabeljou and White Steenbrass, which are under serious threat. Kob is down to approximately 4% of its original population.

Sunde’s research was incorporated into a two-day planning meeting in April 2012 convened by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), which manages the MPAs, and attended by a range of officials across local, provincial and national agencies, as well as natural and social scientists. Sunde and Raemaekers were asked to give a presentation on the ‘Human Dimensions’ of the Dwesa-Cwebe MPA at the meeting, which contributed towards a deepened understanding of the complex factors impacting biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods in the MPAs. This will help to inform management policies and SANParks’ Resource Use Strategy.

“It is very clear that if we want to solve the conflict around MPAs, such as poaching, we need to implement practical management policies that include the community, such as preferential access and community managed sanctuary areas,” says Raemaekers. “This would allow the small-scale fishers to claim their traditional fishing areas, and at the same time it would allow the resources time to recover, and therefore sustain the communities’ supply.”

Raemaekers offers the example of a woman in a coastal community who is head of her household and who harvests mussels, limpets and red bait to feed her family. “There is no question she will risk getting caught in the MPA because for her it is about survival. These are the forgotten people who don’t partake in high-level biodiversity conversations, and the inclusion of their needs is essential in the spatial planning of MPAs.”
In this and other areas the Human Dimensions Project team will be putting forward practical guidelines that will hopefully be acceptable to both the fisher communities and to the DEA and to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). “In the Struisbaai/ Agulhas/ Kogelberg area, for example, the broad principle is that 80% of the inshore zone will be for local restricted use, based on the Small-scale Fisheries Policy, while 20% will be set aside as a ‘no tag’ area to allow the resources to recover,” says Chadwick. Currently there is only the Bettys Bay MPA, which spans four kilometres of coastline and extends two nautical miles offshore.

Through engagement and inclusion of the local communities they hope to encourage a sense of ownership and protection of the local resources. At the same time, WWF has appointed a market transformation manager to look into market opportunities for the small-scale fishers to improve their livelihoods.

“If we get this project right, it will change the way that MPAs in South Africa are managed into the future, with small-scale fishers playing an important role,” says Chadwick.




Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) set priority actions for 2013

Kei Mouth - venue for the recent MPA Forum

The WWF Honda Marine Parks programme recently held the 2012 MPA Forum at the Morgan’s Bay Nature Reserve, which lies close to the banks of the Kei River and on the borders of the spectacular Wild Coast. The event brought together 95 delegates from across the country, all of whom are involved in some form of management within the MPA’s. This included the MPA managers from the various conservation agencies, government, marine educators, biodiversity and social scientists and community members.
Forum participants tackled both the operational and social aspects of MPA management, as well as placing MPAs within the broader integrated ocean management framework thereby being able to set priority actions for 2013.  These priorities include setting expansion and re-zonation targets, with a focus on the Prince Edward Islands, Algoa Bay and proclaiming a MPA on the Namaqualand coast.
The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency did a fantastic job in providing and sorting out the forum venue and ensuring that we were warmly welcomed into their special province. The Department of Environmental Affairs: Branch Oceans & Coasts were also well represented and provided very informative presentations on integrated coastal management, estuary management, the draft Oceans Policy and where MPAs fit into the future of South Africa. Other presentations included how the public have become involved in an innovative programme of work within False Bay in collaboration with the governing institutions and how complex social and biodiversity issues were being tackled in the Dwesa-Cwebe MPA.
A real highlight of the Forum included a field visit to the Wild Coast Abalone Farm in nearby Haga-Haga and it was the first time that many were able to view firsthand how a successful mariculture venture was managed, while also seeing the challenges that are faced by such a venture.

Another very successful MPA Forum

The 2012 MPA Forum was probably the most successful to date and this is clearly indicative of the collaborative approach now taken by all attendees. It is only through this collaboration that we will be able to resolve issues of conflict, while setting a clear path into the future of showcasing the value of MPAs. For me, as the facilitator of the event, it is a tremendous privilege to be part of such a positive group of individuals and I look forward to seeing the priorities that have been set, coming into fruition and those responsible for that actions giving positive feedback at the 2013 MPA Forum which looks to be set for the north coast of KwaZulu Natal.

Peter Chadwick
Manager: Integrated Ocean Management



WWF Honda Marine Parks Programme

Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Management Forum 2012 a resounding success
The Eastern Cape’s coastal hamlet of Kei Mouth provided the perfect backdrop for the Department of Environmental Affairs MPA Management Forum (18-21 November 2012). Some 90 delegates from environmental departments from all corners of Southern Africa, WWF representatives, universities and other interested organisations, together with Doug and Laurence Kemsley from Honda Marine Port Alfred were in attendance.

First there was ONE... Laurence Kemsley of Honda Marine Port Alfred with East Cape Parks' aluminium estuary craft, powered by a Honda BF60, on display

Within the conference room at the Cape Morgan Nature Reserve, issues surrounding the challenges of integrated coastal management, ocean policies, national estuarine and island management, threatened and protected species and shore-based recreational angling were aired.

Then there was EVERYONE. The full-house of attendees of the MPA Management Forum, crowd the boat for a group photograph

Specific sensitive areas such as Robberg, Betty’s Bay, Namaqua, Addo, Dwesa-Cwebe, False Bay and Kogelberg, were also high on the agenda.

Peter Chadwick, manager of Integrated Ocean Management: WWF-South Africa, and Honda Marine Port Alfred's dealer principal, Doug Kemsley, at Kei Mouth

Honda Marine Southern Africa, with its important WWF Honda Marine Parks Programme, was represented by its local dealer for this area, namely Honda Marine Port Alfred. A leading figure in this Honda-funded programme is Peter Chadwick, Manager: Integrated Ocean Management: WWF – South Africa, who works closely with Honda Marine in order to leverage maximum benefit from this programme.

Delegates at the MPA/WWF Management forum get down to business

Honda Marine Port Alfred’s dealer principal, Doug Kemsley, said that fishermen in Port Alfred, East London and areas well into the Transkei, are more and more becoming Honda outboard motor converts in the relatively short timespan of five years.

Typical rugged coastline of the Kei area. Having to contend with such harsh sea conditions, Honda Marine Port Alfred's many deep sea fishing customers in the area swear by Honda's robustness and reliability to contend with such conditions. Kei Mouth is a favoured beach-launch location for serious fishermen

“It is of great interest to us that this year’s forum should be held here at Kei Mouth where the Hondas are now becoming popular as tough, reliable units, well suited to beach-launch applications,” said Kemsley.