Marine Protected Areas of South Africa

Marine Protected Area (MPA) is an umbrella term to describe a wide range of protected areas for marine conservation around the world. A global definition specifically for MPAs – as distinct from the general definition of a protected area – was first adopted by the IUCN in 1999. The definition was revised in 2012 and the distinction between a marine and terrestrial protected area was removed, aligning the definition of MPAs with the definition of a ‘protected area’ as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” –

There is still a general perception that marine environments are more resilient than terrestrial environments, and less susceptible to irreversible damage by human activities. This perception is neither appropriate nor entirely correct. Worldwide, fish populations have been heavily depleted by fishing activities. Furthermore the oceans are under threat from other activities, including mining, invasive alien species, pollution, boating, coastal development, catchment runoff and uncontrolled tourism. MPAs now form the backbone of South Africa’s marine conservation strategy and are augmented by comprehensive fishery regulations, and controls on pollution, shipping and mining.The profile of MPAs is considerably lower than that of terrestrial protected areas. This is partly a worldwide phenomenon. This imbalance is slowly being rectified, as witnessed by new international calls for marine conservation, MPAs and responsible fishing practices. The first MPA was declared in South Africa only in 1964 (Tsitsikamma).


Betty's Bay MPA © WWFSA

Betty’s Bay MPA © WWFSA


The Betty’s Bay Marine Protected Area, declared in 1981, lies within the village of Betty’s Bay just East of Cape Hangklip, about 90km by roadfrom Cape Town. This MPA is important for the protection of the Stony Point African Penguin colony, abalone, west coast rock lobsters, and various linefish species found in the area. There is proposed expansion plan being planned for the marine area stretching from the Steenbras River mouth along the coast to the Bot River Mouthwith boundaries and zones for specified acitivies.  Read More



De Hoop MPA was declared on 1 January 1985 and the adjacent De Hoop Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site was listed under the World Heritage Convention Act 1999 in July 2004. The MPA covers an area of approximately 25 300 ha (253 km²). The MPA is located adjacent to the Agulhas Bank, representing an important area that contributes greatly to the high biotic diversity of this region. The intertidal zone within the MPA has faunal elements representing both warm-water east coast species and cold-water west coast species. De Hoop MPA is critically important for the conservation of the Southern Right whale (Eubalaena australis) which is an endangered species. Read More

Goukamma MPA © WWFSA


Goukamma Marine Protected Area falls within the warm temperate South Coast zone that covers the area from Cape Point to East London. Goukamma MPA is roughly in the middle of this zone with the western most boundary approximately 45 km East of George. The main reasons for proclamation of the MPA are: Protection of intertidal species with an emphasis on protection of sought after bait species , Protection of important offshore reefs that provide habitat for commercially threatened sparid species and for the natural functioning of marine and estuarine ecosystems. Read More

Helderberg MPA © WWFSA


Helderberg MPA is adjacent to the Helderberg Coastal Reserve, which is managed by the Helderberg Municipality. The shore is a sandy beach, but there is low profile sandstone offshore. These 4 km of beach are the least disturbed part of the northern shore of False Bay. Read More

Robberg MPA © WWFSA


Robberg MPA is adjacent to Robberg Nature Reserve. This Reserve forms a peninsula with a single access point. The length of the Robberg MPA shoreline is 9km and includes rocky platforms, sandy beaches, subtidal rocky reefs and subtidal sandy benthos. A Cape Fur Seal colony is also present in the area. Read More 

Stilbaai MPA © WWFSA


The total surface area is 3 374ha, consisting of a 20km² zone that is totally protected from any consumptive activities such as fishing and 75% of the estuary which has the same level of protection. The Stilbaai MPA was declared to assist in the protection of the environment (marine and estuarine) and their living resources (more than 50% of the MPA being no-take), which will assist in re-building of over-exploited stocks, particularly reef/line fish. Read More

Langebaan Lagoon © WWFSA


Langebaan Lagoon MPA and Sixteen Mile Beach MPA are part of the West Coast National Park. Langebaan is an important MPA because of its uniqueness – a warm oligotrophic lagoon, along the west coast which is cold, nutrient-rich and wave exposed. It supports very rich bird life and is Ramsar listed. Sixteen Mile Beach lies on the exposed side of the peninsula, and is representative of west coast high energy sandy beaches.
Jutten, Marcus and Malgas islands, located off Saldanha Bay coastline are also MPAs, which form important habitats for many seabird species. Read More 

Table Mountain MPA © WWFSA


The Table Mountain MPA includes 995, 7 km2 of the sea and 137 km of coastline around the Cape Peninsula from Moullie Point in the North to Muizenberg in the South. While fishing is allowed in the majority of the MPA – subject to Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) permits,regulations and seasons – it also includes six restricted or “no-take”zones where no fishing or extractive activities are allowed. These no-take zones are important breeding and nursery areas for marine life and through leaving these unmolested there will ultimately be an increase in marine stock and threatened species are given a chance to regenerate. Read More 

Tsitsikamma MPA © WWFSA


The Tsitsikamma National Park, proclaimed in 1964, is the oldest and largest ‘no-take’ MPA in Africa. It is considered by many to be the marine equivalent of the Kruger National Park. The majority of this stretch of coastline is rugged with high rocky ridges, but includes boulder bays, subtidal rocky reefs and subtidal sandy benthos. The Tsitsikamma MPA is a biodiversity hotspot and provides excellent habitat for reef associated plants and animals, including many over-exploited fishery species. Read More 


Bird Island MPA © P Chadwick


Bird Island MPA was declared in 2004 for biodiversity conservation reasons, and declared as part of Addo Elephant National Park in 2005. The Bird Island group (Bird, Seal, Stag, & Black Rock) are situated at the north eastern end of Algoa Bay close to Woody Cape. form ecological distinct subtidal habitats, containing many endemic species of invertebrates, seaweeds and fish, such as santer and red roman. Black Rocks is an important seal breeding colony, and is associated with a great white shark feeding area. Read More  

Dwesa-Cwebe MPA © WWFSA


The Dwesa-Cwebe MPA which is adjacent to the Dwesa-Cwebe Nature Reserve is located in the beautiful and rugged Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. The MPA was initially declared as a marine reserve in 1989 under the then Transkei Government. It was later reconfirmed as a stricltly no-take zone in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act. Read More  

Hluleka MPA © WWFSA


The entire 4km coastline along Hluleka Nature Reserve is the MPA. Hluleka Nature Reserve is located in the magisterial district of Ngqeleni in the Nyandeni Local Municipality, and lies approximately 87km (by road) south east of Mthatha and 45 km south west of Port St Johns along the coast . The terrestrial part of the reserve consists of hilly vegetated with grassland, thicket and coastal forest, while the coast consists of mainly rocky shore interspersed with small sandy beaches and a lagoon. Read More

Pondoland MPA © WWFSA


The Pondoland MPA includes a wide range of marine and coastal habitats with some of the most pristine estuaries in South Africa, extensive rocky and sandy shores and large subtidal reefs. From a fisheries perspective, the area forms the core distribution area of many over-exploited linefish species (e.g. seventy-four, red steenbras, black musselcracker etc.), some of which spawn in the region. It also forms an important area for a number of intertidal invertebrates (e.g. brown mussels, oysters, limpets etc.), many of which have been subjected to extensive harvesting in the past. Read More 

Sardinia Bay MPA © WWFSA


Sardinia Bay MPA is adjacent to Sardinia Bay Reserve and the Sylvic Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape which is declared under Ordinance 19 of 1974 Nature and Environmental Conservation Ordinance. The MPA was re-declared under MLRA of 1998 in 29 December 2000, Government Gazette No. 21948.  The length of the Sardinia Bay MPA shoreline is 7km (total area 13.2km2) and contains representative habitat including rocky platforms, sandy beaches, subtidal rocky reefs, and subtidal sandy benthos. Read More


Aliwal Shoal MPA © WWFSA


The Aliwal Shoal MPA was declared in 2004 and it extends from high water mark to 7 km offshore of the town of Umkomaas KwaZulu-Natal on the South Coast. Aliwal Shoal is situated on the inner edge of the Agulhas Current which runs along the east coast of Southern Africa bringing with it warm water and a huge diversity of tropical sea life. The importance of the MPA is to protect and conserve the marine environment and biodiversity of the area. The Aliwal Shoal is valuable in promoting and regulating ecotourism activities, enhances research and education projects. Read More 

Trafalgar MPA © WWFSA


Approximately one third of the Trafalgar MPA is adjacent to Mpenjati Reserve, a provincial reserve near Margate along the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. The length of the Trafalgar MPA shoreline is 4.8km (total area 2.5km2), making it one of the smallest in South Africa. Trafalgar MPA was promulgated primarily to protect fossils (a petrified forest) that are exposed in the intertidal zone. Read More 

iSimangaliso MPA © WWFSA


The entire coastline of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (from the Mozambique border to Cape St Lucia) is protected under the World Heritage Convention Act. This magnificent area lies largely within the Delagoa Bioregion and includes a wealth of tropical and sub-tropical habitats and species. Read More


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