Cape Canyon MPA

"South Africa's Grand Canyon"

West of Cape Columbine, Western Cape


A deep and dramatic submarine canyon carved into the continental shelf. Here cold, nutrient-rich waters interact with a complex seascape to support the productive Benguela marine ecosystem.

Seabirds find their food in this area while Cape fur seals have been found hunting at depths over 400 m. Aggregations of humpback whales are sometimes seen. The range of charismatic animals means that this MPA may support ecotourism in the future. Rocky areas in the west support fragile rocky habitat but the area also includes sandy and muddy habitats, which have been trawled in the past. The Cape Canyon was discovered in the 60’s and was explored for diamonds in the 1980’s. Underwater footage shows groves of seafans, scurrying hermit crabs and burrowing mantis shrimps. Hake, monk and john dory – all popular commercial species - are commonly observed on the soft canyon floor. This 580 km2 MPA covers the 180 – 500 m depth range, although new mapping shows that this canyon, the same size as the Grand Canyon in America, extends far deeper, to a maximum depth of 3600m on the lower slope.



  • Safeguards threatened canyon habitat from trawling and mining (best option as less socio-economic cost than protecting canyon off Cape Point)

  • Important feeding area for whales and seabirds

  • Important for sustainability of small pelagic and hake fisheries

  • Ecotourism potential (e.g. whale watching)