Helderberg Marine Protected Area

Marine Protected Area in or near Macassar, Cape Helderberg in Cape Town, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsHelderberg Marine Protected Area

Where? Helderberg Marine Protected Area lies on the north eastern shore of False Bay, adjacent to the Macassar Dunes Reserve.

Overnight? Stay in Macassar, in Western Cape

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.

Helderberg Marine Protected Area lies on the north eastern shore of False Bay. It lies adjacent to the Macassar Dunes Reserve. There are no signs or beacons designating the boundaries of the Marine Protected Area, and few people know of its existence (but it is marked on Google maps).

The small MPA is 4 km of sandy shoreline between the Eerste River mouth and the Lourens River mouth (that part of the coast that lies between the southerly bulge of Macassar Road, and the Strand Golf Club) extending 500 metres offshore from the high water mark. It is a no-take zone, and as such, is regarded as the last bit of untouched sandy beach on the north shore of False Bay.

The marine protected area includes a few low profile sandstone reefs that fall within its sea boundary. Its sand dunes are part of a mobile dune system that creates fore-dunes; part of the reason that Macassar beach pavilion is inundated with windblown sand.

MPAs protect the fauna of the area. Meiofauna, quite literally, the life between the grains of sand on the ocean floor is plentiful on this coastline. Roughly 90 per cent of the ocean floor is made up of sediments, including grains of mud, sand and gravel. They are moved all the time by the action of the tides, currents and waves.

In the tiny space between the sediment grains lives a whole universe, invisible to the naked eye. These tiny organisms, smaller than 1 mm, are known as meiofauna. They may be small, but they are the best monitor of pollution on sandy beaches because of their sensitivity to disturbance and pollution.

Helderberg is also rich with sand mussels, mole and ghost crabs, plough snails, sandhoppers and kelp gulls, African black oystercatchers, white-fronted plovers and sanderlings.

Recovery of coastal fish has been slow. Due in no small way to intense historical over-fishing, both from boats and the surfzone and environmental degradation of nursing grounds in the river estuaries.

The opportunity to visit this MPA is limited. But you can access it from Macassar dunes.

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