WATCH: Coastal ecosystems in KZN under pressure, says State of Coast Report

Picture: Chris Collingridge/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Picture: Chris Collingridge/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Oct 20, 2022


The recently released KwaZulu-Natal State of the Coast Report (KZN SOCR) paints a grim picture of the 33 coastal subsystems along the coast of the province.

The report serves as a review of the state of KwaZulu-Natal’s coastal zones, in terms of the Integrated Coastal Management Act (2008), section 93.2 (a), the provincial lead agency for coastal management is required to prepare a report on the state of the coastal environment in the province every four years.

The report is a joint publication between the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Edtea) and the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI).

The report derives research and data from several coastal experts and organisations such as the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African National Biodiversity Institute and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

It outlines pressures faced by coastal and marine ecosystems in KZN and aims to better inform future decisions in managing these ecosystems.

Marine conservation along the province's coast has improved immensely over the years with the report finding that more than 22% or just over 120km of the province's coastline is under some form of protection, most of this falling under the iSimangaliso World Heritage reserve.

The report also found that marine goods and services provided by the coastal zone are still positively diverse and readily accessible.

“However, cracks in the system have appeared and while there is excellent legislation and scientific capacity in place, it is the implementation of policy that needs strengthening,” researchers said.

The report was compiled at a time when coastal KZN was under severe duress with the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, major lockdowns, riots and associated pollution as well as the recent floods which swept through the province in April and May this year.

Infrastructure was severely damaged and basic services were interrupted for many months following the floods. These events highlighted the fragility of the KZN coastal zone.

Providing an overview of six main ecosystems, the authors of the report sought to find out more about the drivers of ecosystem change, the pressures on them, the current state, and potential impacts and identified key response actions for each of these.

The report found that, overall, the state of the province's coast is highly concerning with 23 of the 35 sub-systems identified as being in a moderate state and 11 in a poor state with the overall trend showing a bleak trajectory with 18 sub-systems in a declining trend.

Only 12 of these subsystems are considered stable and only one, marine protected areas, showing improvement.

The main environmental threats identified by the report include various forms of pollution, particularly sewage treatment or lack thereof, climate change, coastal sand mining, oil and gas exploration and changes in human settlements.

In addition, possible emerging issues to be considered going forward include water quality concerns, new diseases largely through aquaculture and ongoing and increased mining in estuarine functional zones.

The report is available for download here with a limited number of hard copies sourced from either Omar Parak at Edtea ([email protected]) or Marilyn Bodasing at ORI ([email protected]).

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