SA’s 20th marine protected area

14 October 2008

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk this week promulgated the Stilbaai Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Western Cape province, making it South Africa’s twentieth such protected area.

The new protected area will provide protection to a variety of marine and estuarine habitats, which in turn will assist in the recovery of populations of depleted fish and other endemic species.

“The declaration of a restricted zone will also allow specific protected sandy terrestrial and marine areas to join, thereby shielding the natural coastline more fully, which is important in the light of climate change and its resulting phenomena,” an Schalkwyk said in a statement this week.

Variety of marine habitats

According to Van Schalkwyk, the new Stilbaai MPA encompasses a variety of marine habitats, including a large sandy bay to the east, smaller rocky bays to the west and the mouth of the Goukou River in the centre of the area.

“It is significant that the entire Goukou estuary lies within the MPA, as this will help provide urgent protection for the estuary,” Van Schalkwyk said. “As the MPA will encompass both estuarine and marine habitats, it will provide enhanced shelter for formerly abundant but now overexploited species like kob, which use both environments.”

Van Schalkwyk said the Stilbaai MPA will offer complete protection from fishing and bait collection to approximately 75% of the Goukou estuary and 20 square kilometres of ocean in the Skulpiesbaai restricted zone in the west and the larger Geelkrans restricted zone in the east.

“These areas will assist in the recovery of populations of depleted fish species and their sustainable utilisation outside the restricted area,” Van Schalkwyk said. “Rare and endemic species and their habitat will also be protected in the sea and estuary.”

Line-fishing for locals

The coastline also contains well-preserved stone fish traps (visvywers), which are considered to be living evidence of how the original coastal inhabitants historically fished the area.

The town of Stilbaai and its people still depend on having access to the sea and estuary and there is a proclaimed harbour utilised by both commercial and recreational fishers and recreational boaters.

The remainder of the MPA compromises a controlled zone in which fishing will be allowed. In the estuarine part of the controlled zone, which stretches from the mouth to just upstream of the Olive Grove Dam, recreational fishing as well as bait collecting on the eastern bank will be allowed.

In the marine area of approximately 12 square kilometres opposite the mouth, recreational fishing and some forms of commercial fishing, like traditional line-fishing but not trawling, are allowed.

SAinfo reporter