Amathole offshore MPA

"Lace Coral Gardens"

East London, Eastern Cape


The underwater world offshore of East London has unique canyons, corals and gravel habitats that are home to endemic seabreams that occur nowhere else on Earth.

This 400 km2 MPA was proclaimed in 2019 and extends two of three existing coastal areas protected by Amathole MPA either side of East London. The MPA avoids the Industrial Development Zone, planned to support economic growth in the region, but protects the spectacular Gxulu canyon and some of the fragile lace corals where the endemic south coast rock lobster find refuge. The northern part of the MPA helps protect the sediment fan of the magnificent Kei River mouth that is home to sponge and soft coral gardens and the endangered red steenbras; the world’s largest seabream found only in South Africa. Because the continental shelf is narrow in this region, the MPA covers a wide variety of shelf and slope ecosytems extending to a depth of 2200m. It may also be the final resting place of the missing shipwreck The Waratah.



  • First protection for many unprotected ecosystem types trawled elsewhere in the Agulhas Ecoregion

  • Threatened canyon and mud habitat in good condition

  • Sensitive lace corals found only in this area

  • High habitat diversity

  • Linefish recovery