Western Cape Tourist AttractionsBetty's Bay Marine Protected Area
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.
Betty's Bay Marine Protected Area lies adjacent to the popular seaside town of Betty's Bay and the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, both managed by CapeNature. It protects a diverse number of habitats – from rocky shores and exposed sandy beaches, to subtidal reefs, kelp forests and river estuaries – and also forms the core zone of the UNESCO Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve.
The MPA's main function is to protect abalone. There is a lot of poaching within the area. Also known as perlemoen (mother of pearl) the ongoing poaching of this mollusc is stripping the coast of its marine reserves. Perlemoen is endemic to South Africa's shores, but has a high market value and is thus one of the most sought-after invertebrates in the country.
Abalone theft is not the only threat to the MPA. High numbers of rock lobster are also poached, the MPA is at risk of over-exploitation by shore anglers, and by development in the areas that surround the MPA. Betty's Bay, despite its conservation status, is a highly popular little town. Capetonians retire there, artists move there, and many people have holiday homes there. The pressure on the environment, and the disturbance to the local sand dunes, is measurable.
The MPA is small by MPA standards so when a potential environmental disaster, like the chokka vessel carrying 10 000 litres of diesel and engine oil that ran aground in February 2014 just five km away from the Stony Point penguin colony happens, the possible repercussions are enormous.
There is an African penguin colony at Stony Point, one of only two land-based penguin colonies of the Jackass penguin in the country. Paradoxically they are based at the Betty's Bay slipway, once a whaling station. tony Point now has a brand new eco centre that tells the history of whaling in the area, a restaurant run by the local Mooiuitsig community, and a well maintained boardwalk in amongst the penguins.
Restructuring of the MPA's status is in the pipeline. It could once again become a full no-take MPA. At the moment one can still fish from the shore.