About West Coast Marine Protected Area

An hour and a half north of Cape Town, the West Coast National Park Marine Protected Area is a collection of five Marine Protected Areas within the boundaries of the park formed to protect exposed and sheltered sandy beaches, rocky shores, a lagoon, mud flats, salt marshes, subtidal reefs and sandy benthos (organisms on the seabed).

The five Marine Protected Areas include Malgas, Jutten and Marcus islands, Sixteen Mile beach, on the west of the peninsula, and Langebaan Lagoon, the only true lagoon system (non-estuarine tidal lagoon) in the country that is a declared Ramsar Site (a wetland of international importance) and protects about 32 percent of South Africa's saltmarshes.

Langebaan is also a vital non-breeding site for hundreds of thousands of Palaearctic (birds from Europe, Africa north of the Sahara, and most of Asia north of the Himalayas) migrant waders that head to the lagoon in summer.

Its importance does not end there. It also has a rich marine invertebrate fauna of over 400 species, is one of only two places where you will find the Siphonaria, South Africa's most endangered marine mollusc, and is home to another important mollusc, the Assiminea glubulus, a major food source for the curlew, the lagoon's most abundant migrant wader.

There are also 34 different fish species, including the sandshark, and linefish like geelbek, Cape stumpnose, snoek and yellowtail.

Langebaan lagoon is, however, a popular tourist attraction with cultural fishing rights. Whilst it has a sanctuary zone (a no-go zone that allows no access), there is also a restricted zones where you can sail and canoe, but not fish, and a controlled zone where one can fish and use powered boats.

The islands – Malgas, Jutten, Schaapen and Marcus – are essential seabird breeding islands. Several of these birds are listed on the IUCN Red Date List of seabirds. Malgas is one of only three islands in the country where Cape gannets breed, as do roughly 30 percent of the world's population of the African black oystercatcher. Schaapen island is home to the biggest known colony of kelp gulls in southern Africa. No fishing or jetskis are allowed along the shores of the islands.

Fishing is also banned along the shore of Sixteen Mile Beach between Plankies and Rooipan se Klippe.

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.

Need to Know

WhereWest Coast Marine Protected Area in the West Coast National Park area, Langebaan, Cape west Coast, Western Cape, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours.

OvernightStay in Langebaan Accommodation, Western Cape

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