Garden Route Tourist AttractionsGoukamma Marine Protected Area
Where? Adjacent to the Goukamma Nature Reserve near Sedgefield and Knysna, Garden Route.
How? Call +27 (0)44 383-0042
The aim of a marine protected area is to conserve marine life. They take the form of a collaboration between civil society, communities and government that promote conservation and safeguard threatened marine species and important habitats.
The Goukamma Marine Protected Area lies near Sedgefield, east of Cape Town; a designated portion of the ocean adjacent to the Goukamma Nature Reserve that protects the sea against harmful human activities like overfishing and oyster and mussel gathering.
The Goukamma Marine Protected Area's shoreline is 14 km long - a series of rocky, sandy shores and a semi-closed estuary - its landward boundary the high water mark, and its seaward border one nautical mile (1.852 km) offshore. Within this mile area lie offshore reefs, which host a number of endemic temperate fish like the roman (one of the most frequently caught reef fish), and soft sediments.
Despite its small size the Goukamma MPA has successfully managed to conserve a spawning population of roman fish in near pristine condition.
A study published in 2013 by the University of Cape Town and South Africa's fisheries agency revealed that MPAs can increase fish stocks rapidly, without disadvantaging fishers. The researchers looked at 15 years of data from around the Goukamma MPA.
They found that only one year after the MPA was enforced, fish numbers began to increase. At the same time they found that there was no drop in total catch or an increase in travel distance for fishermen.
Goukamma is threatened, despite its success story, by a number of factors particularly as monitoring of the MPA is limited by a lack of permanently employed personnel. These include over-exploitation by shore anglers and offshore reefs on the boundaries of the MPA, bait collecting, and the disturbance of birds on the beaches by dogs.
Illegal night fishing is also a problem, made problematic by the lack of experienced skippers and boat patrols.
Goukamma is surrounded by the popular seaside towns of Knysna, Sedgefield and Buffalo Bay, which has a blue flag beach that draw large crowds during holidays incurring a negative impact on the estuary and the marine area.
There is a push to change the seaward boundary of the MPA in a bid to increase conservation and fishery benefits. Work by Albrecht Götz and Sven Kerwath shows that a new boundary will give greater protection to the reef systems west of the MPA and reduce the conflict with fishers to the east.
The area is incredibly beautiful and one can walk, and stay overnight, in the nature reserve.