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EBSAs in the BCLME

What are EBSAs?

Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) are geographically or oceanographically discrete areas that provide important services to one or more species or populations of an ecosystem or to the ecosystem as a whole, compared to other surrounding areas or areas of similar ecological characteristics, or otherwise meet at least one of the 7 EBSA criteria (see below). These sites need to be protected with conservation or other management measures to help stop the rapid loss of marine biodiversity in the ocean, in both benthic and pelagic habitats. The intent is for EBSAs to help countries to achieve the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 (specifically Target 11), and to identify priority areas for protection in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Currently, there are 320 EBSAs worldwide.


EBSAs in the BCLME

EBSAs in the BCLME were identified at a regional meeting in 2013, and adopted by the CBD at the 12th Convention of the Parties in 2014. The intent under MARISMA is to refine the boundaries and update descriptions of existing EBSAs, identify relevant new ones, and incorporate all of these in a regional Marine Spatial Plan to achieve sustainable ocean use in the Benguela Current.

Currently, there are 11 EBSAs in the BCLME within national jurisdiction that are recognised by CBD. Another EBSA spans almost the full extent of the LME, including a small portion of high seas next to the Angolan EEZ. The 11 EBSAs within national jurisdiction have been revised in this project, and a further 9 new EBSAs will be proposed to CBD in due course. For regular updates of the revised and proposed EBSAs, view the project's working EBSA portal. (Note that South Africa has more EBSAs (revised and proposed) beyond the BCLME, the details of which are also on the working EBSA portal).



How do EBSAs fit into MARISMA?

In the MARISMA project, Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP) tools are used to identfy EBSAs. In turn, EBSAs inform Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) by informing which activities are compatible or incompatible with areas of high ecological value. By implementing appropriate spatial management measures, the MSP can contribute to securing the special features in the ocean, as well as allowing for socio-economic development in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem. 

See our book chapter and published paper on this approach.


EBSA criteria rankings

The criteria are coloured in the image gallery below by their rank: red = the criterion is met at a high rank; orange = medium; yellow = low; grey = data deficient. Because the currently adopted EBSAs have been updated and revised, some of the criteria ranks have been changed as a result of new research and information that has become available since the site was adopted in 2014. These changes are marked with a star, coloured by the previous ranking. Where EBSA names have been changed, the previous name is in square brackets; new, proposed EBSAs are also indicated in square brackets]. To view the full description of each site, see the next section below.

Browse the criteria ranks of the BCLME EBSAs

EBSA Criteria

To qualify as an EBSA, the site must meet at least one of the following seven criteria, as adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity:

1. Uniqueness or rarity

Area contains either: unique ("the only one of its kind"), rare (occurs only in few locations) or endemic species, populations or communities, and/or unique, rare or distinct, habitats or ecosystems; and/or unique or unusual geomorphological or oceanographic features

2. Special importance for life history stages of species

Areas that are required for a population to survive and thrive

3. Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats

Area containing habitat for the survival and recovery of endangered, threatened, declining species or area with significant assemblages of such species

4. Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery

Areas that contain a relatively high proportion of sensitive habitats, biotopes or species that are functionally fragile (highly susceptible to degradation or depletion by human activity or by natural events) or with slow recovery

5. Biological productivity

Area containing species, populations or communities with comparatively higher natural biological productivity

6. Biological diversity

Area contains comparatively higher diversity of ecosystems, habitats, communities, or species, or has higher genetic diversity

7. Naturalness

Area with a comparatively higher degree of naturalness as a result of the lack of or low level of human-induced disturbance or degradation

Read more about the EBSA criteria in this brochure by the CBD.

Explore EBSAs in the BCLME

Expand the map below by clicking on the full-screen button (top right corner of the map), and explore the EBSAs interactively. Note that all of the South African EBSAs are presented, including those outside of the BCLME.

Site information

EBSA Downloads


Download all the EBSA descriptions for the BCLME region or per country as a single document (or per EBSA from the tab below). More subsets of the main working document are available for download here.

icon MARISMA EBSA Descriptions 2020_BCLME Region (7.35 MB)

icon MARISMA EBSA Descriptions 2020_Angola (2.45 MB)

icon MARISMA EBSA Descriptions 2020_Namibia (2.39 MB)

icon MARISMA EBSA Descriptions 2020_South Africa (4.49 MB)

 Delineations (shp, kmz)

Boundaries of the final revised and proposed EBSAs in the BCLME

icon  MARISMA EBSA KMZ 2020 (952.65 kB)

icon  MARISMA EBSA SHP 2020 (14.49 MB)

Note that South Africa has more EBSAs beyond the BCLME. Details on these EBSAs can be viewed here.

Socio-Economic / Pressure Data


Coming soon

 South Africa

Coming soon

History of EBSAs

At the CBD's 7th COP in 2004, an Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Protected Areas was established. Among other things, this working group was mandated "to explore options for cooperation for the establishment of marine protected areas in marine areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, consistent with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and based on scientific information".

Over the next 16 years, which included 7 more COPs and numerous regional meetings, the concept of EBSAs has been developed and applied to areas both beyond and within national jurisdiction. To date, 320 EBSAs are recognised.