Integrated Coastal Management Act and its relevance to estuaries

Posted on 24 Jun 2022

The ICM Act

The National Estuary Management is mandated in terms of the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Act of 2008, and the draft National Protocol as developed in the CAPE Estuaries Programme. The information below describes the current policy in the context of the ICM Act of 2008 and its relevance to estuaries.


Relevance of the ICM Act:

  • The ICM Act provides the overarching legal framework for coastal management in South Africa. As such, the provisions and requirements of the ICM Act assume paramount importance in the context of estuarine management.

Rationale for the ICM Act:

  • The ICM Act has been established in order to provide the legal framework for integrated coastal and estuarine management, thereby instating integrated coastal management as the preferred vehicle for the promotion of sustainable coastal development in South Africa.

Chapter 4: Estuaries:

  • This chapter of the ICM Act aims to facilitate the efficient and coordinated management of all estuaries. This includes provisions that ensure they are managed in accordance with:
    • (a) A National Estuarine Management Protocol approved by the Minister(s) responsible for environment and water affairs;
    • (b) Estuarine management plans for individual estuaries. The protocol will provide a national policy for estuary management and guide the development of individual estuarine management plans. Furthermore, it must be ensured that estuarine management plans are aligned with the National Estuarine Management Protocol and the National Coastal Management Programme.

Purpose of the National Estuarine Management Protocol with relevance to estuaries:

  • To determine a strategic vision and objectives for achieving effective integrated management of estuaries;
  • To set standards and guidelines for estuary management;
  • To define how management responsibilities must be carried out by organs of state and others;
  • To specify a review process for estuarine management plans to ensure compliance to the ICM Act;
  • To publish the protocol for public comment as determined in Section 53 of Chapter 6; and
  • To establish minimum requirements and identify people responsible for preparation of estuarine management plans, and the process to be followed.

Requirements of Estuarine Management Plans:

  • Consistency with the National Estuarine Management Protocol;
  • Consistency with the National Coastal Management Programme;
  • Consistency with applicable provincial coastal management programme(s);
  • Consistency with the applicable municipal coastal management programme; and
  • Publication of the plan for public comment as determined in part 6 of Chapter 6 of the ICM Act.


Therefore, it is fundamentally imperative to conserve and protect estuaries, which have the relevant acts in place in order to do so. In summary, ecosystems which include several organisms and fish, depend on estuaries at some point for their development. Furthermore, due to estuaries being biologically productive, estuaries provide ideal areas for migratory birds to rest and refuel during their long journeys.


ENVASS currently has the internal skills and experience to formulate Estuarine Management Plans throughout South Africa. Should you wish to discuss, or request a quotation from us please do not hesitate to contact us on 012 460 9768 or at

Figure 1: St. Lucia estuary with a diverse array of birdlife.


Figure 2: Knysna estuary which is showcased as the Jewel of Garden Route in South Africa.