South Africa NPOA Sharks II
South Africa’s marine ecosystems, spanning from the subtropical waters of the Mozambique Channel to the polar waters of the Prince Edward Islands, harbour one of the most diverse shark, ray, skate and chimaera faunas in the world. South Africa is home to nearly 200 species of these cartilaginous fishes (also known as chondrichthyans), and additional species continue to be discovered. For the purpose of this document the term “sharks” is used to refer to all chondrichthyans. Sharks form an integral part of South Africa’s marine biota and their importance for the ecosystems cannot be overemphasized. Sharks have also been part of South African traditional fisheries for more than a century and some species are targeted and caught as bycatch in appreciable quantities. South Africa is committed to the conservation and optimal, long-term, sustainable use of sharks. The first South African National Plan of Action for sharks (NPOA-Sharks I) was finalized in 2013 and provided baseline information on the status of chondrichthyans in South Africa and assessed research, management, monitoring, and enforcement frameworks associated with shark fishing and trade of shark product in the South African context. Issues particular to South African chondrichthyan resources that require intervention in the form of specific actions were listed with associated responsibilities and time-frames. The NPOA-Sharks I went through an internal review process and also a comprehensive external review by an international panel of experts appointed by the Minster in 2020. The panel recognized South Africa’s achievements, in particular in the discipline of scientific assessments, but also identified areas where improvements are still needed. Emanating from this review, af ter an extensive stakeholder consultation phase, the revised NPOA (NPOA-Sharks II) builds on the achievements and lessons learned from NPOA-Sharks I and closely follows the recommendations of the Shark expert panel: The following needs were considered priorities in the development of the 41 actions contained in 5 clusters that form the heart of the NPOA-Sharks II: (i) more effective communication and coordination; (ii) measurable outcomes; (iii) recognition of ecosystem effects of fishing and the need for spatial management; (iv) a stronger focus on illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; and (v) improvement and modernization of data collection, capture and storage and integration. These actions will be tracked through the life of this plan against measurable indicators. The NPOA-Sharks II identifies fewer actions, but these have measurable goals and are assigned to specific Chief Directorates within the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, who will be responsible for their delivery, in partnership with other entities. With this plan South Africa again cements its role as a leader among developing countries in the conservation and management of marine resources, recognizing their value for marine ecosystems as well as for the people who depend on it directly and indirectly.