5. Sectors‎ > ‎

Coastal and Marine

Coastal and Marine Sector Summary

South Africa has a rich coastal and marine environment that supports the fishing and tourism industries as well as the human settlements that have located there. Although fishing is not one of the main contributors to national GDP, it does play a significant role in contributing to livelihoods and food security, especially on a subsistence level. The natural beauty of South Africa’s coastline has also led to the development of a thriving tourism industry which contributes significantly to the economy. Many of South Africa’s first cities and towns located themselves on natural estuaries and bays which have become important ports where development and infrastructure have grown around. The coastal and marine sector is currently experiencing challenges relating to overfishing and exploitation of marine resources, as well as damage to infrastructure due to coastal storms.

Climate Change impacts on the Coastal and Marine Sector

Climate change is predicted to have various impacts on South Africa’s coastal, marine and estuarine ecosystems. Specifically, changes are predicted in: sea surface temperature, storm frequency, freshwater flow and runoff patterns, ecosystem productivity, marine water oxygen levels, and wind frequency, direction and strength. A changing climate is also likely to result in declining catches (in terms of species availability and distribution) which could negatively impact on subsistence fishing communities and commercial industries. Furthermore, rising sea levels and increasing storm frequency will also have adverse effects on coastal communities and infrastructure, and negatively impact on the coastal tourism industry. 
The South African Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) report notes that predicting climate change impacts for marine fisheries is challenging due to complex species distribution patterns and the effects of overfishing. The report does however highlight the following potential climate change impacts on the coastal and marine sector (This includes impacts noted in the LTAS for coastal human settlements):
  1. Changes in precipitation and freshwater flow, sea-level rise, increased temperatures and coastal storminess may lead to changes in physical processes and biological responses impacting on marine and benthic ecosystems, as well as estuarine ecosystems. 
  2. An increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events is likely to impact on fishing activity and affect catches, by reducing the number of viable sea fishing days.
  3. Increased loss of land due to sea level rise and storm surges.
  4. Increased damage to property and damage to infrastructure including coastal roads and railways, small fishing ports and harbours, and critical infrastructure due to rising sea-levels and storm surges.
  5. Reduced income from tourism as a result of reduced marine recreational opportunities and increased impact on tourism-supporting infrastructure, such as beach access roads.
  6. Increased groundwater salinity threatening human settlements that depend on vulnerable aquifers.

Vulnerability Assessment in the Coastal and Marine Sector

Climate Change Vulnerability is assessed by identifying a set of climate change indicators or impacts and then assessing your exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity to these indicators. The following sections provide a summary on how to conduct this assessment specifically for the Coastal and Marine Sector.

Step 1: Develop Climate Change Indicators 

The first step in a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment is to develop a set of indicators. Indicators are a list of potential impacts that may take place in your area as a result of climate change. The LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit has developed a draft range of indicators using the Long Term Adaptation Scenario Reports. The indicators have been grouped into sectors. This page deals specifically with the Coastal and Marine Sector and the list of indicators are provided in the tables below.

Step 2: Assess your Exposure to the Indicators 

The second step of a vulnerability assessment is to determine whether a particular indicator is relevant. This is termed "Exposure". Exposure is whether or not a particular impact will take place in your area.

The table below lists various indicators and links to materials to determine whether you are potentially at risk (exposed) to the impact. This is generally a "Yes/No" question.

Record your answers here and make note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Yes" to.

Step 3: Assess your Sensitivity to the Indicators

The third step of the vulnerability assessment asks the question, "if you are exposed, how important is the potential impact?" This is termed "sensitivity" and is generally assessed by a scale (e.g 1 to 5 or High, Medium, Low). For the purpose of the LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Sensitivity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Sensitivity Considerations" to help assess how sensitive you are to particular impacts.

Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Medium or High" to.

Step 4: Assess your Adaptive Capacity to the Indicators

The forth step in the vulnerability assessment asks the question: "If there are going to be significant impacts due to climate change, do you have the systems (policy, resources, social capital) to respond to the change?". The IPCC defines Adaptive Capacity as the "ability of a system to adjust to climate change to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences".

For the purpose of the LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit the Adaptive Capacity Questions have been graded as High, Medium, Low.

The table below lists the same indicators as above but provides a column called "Adaptive Capacity Question" which is "Do you have high, medium or low adaptive capacity (policy, institutional, social and finance) to respond to the change?".

Record your answers here and make a note of any of the indicators above that you scored "Low or Medium" to.

Step 5: Develop Response Plans for Priority Indicators

Once you have completed the exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity assessments, short-list the indicators that you have the following answers for:

  • Exposure - Yes 
  • Sensitivity - High or Medium 
  • Adaptive Capacity - Low or Medium 

These short-listed indicators are the indicators that you are most vulnerable to. You will now need to develop a response plan to deal with these vulnerabilities. The LGCCS Vulnerability Assessment Toolkit includes generic responses plan for each sector (here). You can use these templates as a starting point for developing your own sector response plan.

Key Responses to Climate Change in the Coastal and Marine Sector

To increase resilience and develop appropriate adaptation responses, a more nuanced understanding of the challenges and options for the Coastal and Marine Sector is required, building on the insights of the existing coastal and marine plans. This understanding needs to consider the importance of associated ecological infrastructure in sustaining local economies and livelihoods as well and building resilient communities.
Due to its importance to the economy and livelihoods, the Coastal and Marine Sector should be prioritised in national climate change adaptation efforts, and policies and responses should be cascaded down to the municipal level.

Role of National Departments 

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is a key role-player in ensuring that climate change vulnerabilities are identified in the coastal and marine sector and that guidance and resources are provided in assisting the commercial and subsistence fishing industry to prepare for and respond to these impacts. In 2013 the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) developed a climate change sector plan which has been updated to a Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Plan for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Additionally, DAFF has developed a Small-scale Fisheries Policy, which aims to manage and support the small-scale fisheries sector. An important role of this department is to ensure that these plans and policies are cascaded down to the local level. These plans should then be interrogated at the local level and context appropriate responses in the marine and coastal sector developed.
Possible role players and coastal and marine responses at the local level are highlighted below:

Role of Councillors

  • Spearhead marine and coastal management efforts within the municipality, with a strong focus on community awareness raising. 
  • Ensure that marine and coastal related climate change risks are considered during the IDP review and associated project planning processes. 
  • Support municipal budget allocation to climate change related interventions. 

Role of Municipal Administration

  • Develop plans and programmes aimed at reducing anthropogenic factors such as overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution and others. 
  • Ensure ecosystem-based management practices that focus on rebuilding over-exploited fish resources and impacted ecosystems through awareness raising processes. 
  • Maintain, promote and improve marine and coastal habitat diversity and ecosystem health through community based programmes. 
  • Implementing an ecosystem- based approach to Fisheries Management can contribute to resource recovery through the protection of spawning and nursery areas and the maintenance of other essential fish habitats. 
  • Build on existing programmes to ensure that Marine Protected Areas are effectively managed. 
  • Promote ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) as part of fisheries management. 
  • Support small-scale fishers to be more resilient, including safety at sea mechanisms, early warning systems and building on systems. 
  • Enforcement of existing zoning practices to reduce the number of people located in coastal flood-risk areas. 
  • Improve disaster management plans through adequate disaster risk reduction planning including coastal flood risk reduction measures. 

Role of Individuals

  • Work together with the municipality in finding solutions for identified risks in the municipality. 
  • Play an active role in sustainable natural water resource use and management. 
  • Sustainable fishing systems including integrated wetland and estuary management. 
  • Participate in community-based restoration processes of degraded, polluted natural water sources and coastal areas. 
  • Minimise pollution into or near natural water sources such as streams and rivers as well as marine and coastal areas. 
  • Report stream, river, coastal and marine water pollution.

Responses per Indicator

References Material

Use the following reference material to help assess your vulnerability to the criteria listed above.

National Estuaries
Coastal Areas Below 5m
Marine Benthic and Coastal Threat Status
Coastal Viewer Department of Environmental Affairs
LTAS Phase 1 - Climate and Impacts Factsheet Series - Factsheet 6 of 7 - Climate Change And Marine Fisheries