Benguela Bank MPA

"secret seeps"

West of Doringbaai, Western Cape

 

status: further research needed

 

About 120 km off Doringbaai is a long narrow strip of steep outer shelf and shelf edge spanning the 250-450 m depth range. 

Most of this area was classified as “untrawlable ground” because trawl nets have snagged on hard structures on the seabed in this area. Only one visual survey has been conducted within this 1 500 km 2 area and this was in a sandy area with brittle stars, purple heart urchins and fishes such as jacopever, rattails and dragonets. This area may support rock types known as carbonates that form at cold seeps. A cold seep is an area where methane or hydrogen sulphide escapes from the seafloor providing energy for unique ecosystems supported by bacteria that are able to make food from this energy source. These are fascinating environments with completely different animals such as clams and worms that rely on bacteria and the hydrocarbons they can make sugars from rather than the sunlight powered food chains that we are more familiar with. Although cold seeps have been found on many margins, these ecosystems have not been surveyed in South Africa and represent an important scientific opportunity for local marine and microbial biologists. Better mapping and characterization of the seabed is needed in this area.

 

BENEFITS

  • ProtectION OF rare and Threatened seabed habitats

  • ProtectION OF POSSIBLE SEEP SITE WITH OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOUTH AFRICA SCIENTISTS