Original Articles

Achievements and lessons learned from the Benguela Environment, Fisheries, Interaction and Training (BENEFIT) research programme


This paper considers the scientific achievements of the Benguela Environment, Fisheries, Interaction and Training (BENEFIT) Programme as reflected in 29 internally evaluated BENEFIT research projects carried out between 1998 and 2007 when the programme ended, and draws a number of important lessons relevant to future regional marine research programmes in the Benguela from the manner in which the projects were initiated and executed. The founding of BENEFIT, its organisational structures, and the way in which the projects were planned, formulated and executed through these structures are outlined. The major findings and other achievements of the research on fish resources, the environment and the linkages between them are discussed under these headings, and in the case of projects on resources, in relation to key questions developed from guidelines in the BENEFIT Science Plan. Based largely on a final evaluation by the programme's International Scientific Advisory Panel, it is concluded that BENEFIT added materially to greater knowledge of the dynamics of key resources in the Benguela, markedly increased the extent of environmental monitoring in the region, and the capacity for future such monitoring, and added significant new insights into key physical, chemical and biological processes of relevance to stock dynamics. BENEFIT's most important achievement in a wider sense was the pioneering development, almost from scratch, of a regional marine research community which, inter alia, was crucial in the development of other regional marine research activities in the Benguela, such as the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) Programme whose primary objective was the creation of a Benguela Current Commission. In this sense, the establishment of the Commission in 2007 to deal with transboundary management of the living resources of the Benguela Current and regional biodiversity issues can be regarded as the greatest single legacy of BENEFIT.

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