Ecosystem approach to fisheries management in the northern Benguela: the Namibian experience

Publication Year:

The northern Benguela marine resources have a long history of questionable management primarily because of the limitations of management measures under the political framework of the time (either free access or under an international authority with no national representation, authority or enforcement power). Only after its Independence in 1990 could Namibia exercise its own national management policies, but by that time the most important commercial stocks were severely depleted. Since Independence, and despite strong management measures being implemented, the recovery of the stocks has not been as successful as expected. Some of the possible reasons are the effect of environmental variability on some stocks, ecosystem effects of fishing and unforeseen trophic interaction effects. To date, fisheries management has been based largely on a single-stock approach, but Namibia is committed to implement, in addition, an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) management. The work leading to this implementation is described, in particular an ecosystem modelling study undertaken to summarize the current understanding of the northern Benguela ecosystem, to provide a basis for future work towards an EAF in Namibia. Model simulation results suggest that, given the present assumed trophic structure of the northern Benguela, altering the major fisheries would not result in recovery of the small pelagics to levels seen 40 years ago, suggesting that the original foodweb in the region may have been altered dramatically. Cape hake Merluccius capensis and M. paradoxus were negatively impacted when a large fishery on small horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus capensis was simulated. Model simulations illustrate the important finding that ecosystem effects of altered fishing scenarios are often not of a magnitude or direction that would be expected by considering predator-prey relationships in the absence of indirect trophic effects. Trophic effects may have large indirect consequences for some components of the system, for example seabirds. Keywords: ecosystem model, fisheries management, Namibia, northern Benguela.

Publication Title:

African Journal of Marine Science

Item Type:
Journal Article

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