Draft Biodiversity Bill open for public comment

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. Picture: Supplied

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. Picture: Supplied

Published May 31, 2024


The draft National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Bill (Biodiversity Bill) is now available for public comment, heralding a new chapter in the conservation and sustainable use of South Africa’s biodiversity.

Announced by Minister Barbara Creecy, the Bill aims to address the implementation challenges of the current National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEM: BA), and incorporate recent policy advancements reflected in the 2023 White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa's Biodiversity.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment oversees the terrestrial, freshwater, and marine sub-sectors.

“Despite significant conservation efforts, various challenges have emerged under the existing NEM: BA, necessitating a comprehensive revision,” the Department said in a media release.

The primary objectives of the Biodiversity Bill include the conservation and sustainable utilisation of ecosystems and species, ensuring their protection and sustainable use. It also establishes a duty of care for all biodiversity components, ensuring the welfare of wild animals.

The Bill aims to enhance the development and alignment of biodiversity planning tools, and improve the management of invasive species impacts. Additionally, it promotes the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from bio-prospecting and indigenous knowledge.

Furthermore, it strengthens the role of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Scientific Authority in managing biodiversity and regulating international trade in species. Lastly, it implements appropriate responses to climate change impacts.

The new Bill introduces several critical amendments to the current Act. These include moving away from the concept of restricted activities to a more detailed and specific regulatory approach, with provisions outlined by notice in the Government Gazette or regulations.

It adds provisions for listing species and ecosystems, implementing international agreements, and addressing wildlife trafficking. The Bill completely revises regulations on bio-prospecting, access, and benefit-sharing, and introduces harsher penalties for wildlife trafficking and offences by State officials.

The enactment of the Biodiversity Bill aims to improve the implementation of biodiversity management provisions, providing better protection for species and ecosystems. It allows for more adaptable management practices for species and ecosystems, achieving more effective economic benefits within the biodiversity sector.

Once enacted, the Biodiversity Bill will repeal and replace the current NEM: BA, marking a significant step forward in South Africa's commitment to preserving its natural heritage while promoting sustainable development and equitable benefit-sharing.

Comments and enquiries regarding the Biodiversity Bill can be delivered by post to the Director-General, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Attention: Magdel Boshoff, Private Bag X447, Pretoria, 0001.

They can also be delivered by hand to Reception at Environment House, 473 Steve Biko Road, Arcadia, Pretoria, 0083. Additionally, comments can be sent via email to [email protected].

For further enquiries, Ms Boshoff can be contacted at mobile number 083 952 2334 or via the same email address, [email protected]. Last date for submission of comments is July 22, 2024.