Southwest Indian Seamount MPA

"Climate Refuge"

South of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

 

Unique cold water coral gardens that tower 50 m above the seabed.

This 7500 km2 proposed MPA is in two parts to allow petroleum activities in the area between them. The shallower part includes mostly untrawled rocky shelf edge with several kinds of habitat forming cold water corals including coral gardens at 200 to 300 m and reef building taxa that build towers of coral standing more than 50 m off the seabed at depths of 800 to 1200 m. These corals are vulnerable to changes in ocean temperature, oxygen and acidity and may hold clues to the history of the South African climate. MPAs have been demonstrated to help detect and provide resilience against climate change.

The deeper component protects slope and abyssal habitats in the 3800 to 5200 m depth range making this proposed MPA the deepest of the Phakisa MPA network. It includes the only Indian Ocean seamount in South Africa’s MPA network. Spatial efficiency is a key element in the design of MPAs and this is exemplified in this MPA which covers a broad range of habitats, depths and oceanographic conditions such as current, oxygen and sea surface and bottom temperatures (more than 8 degree bottom temperature range in the shallower coral area. These broad depth and temperature ranges enable animals to respond to changes as a wide variety of physical environments are provided in the MPA.

In addition to the sensitive coral and seamount habitats, fossilised whalebones from extinct species have been recovered from the terraced depths beyond 900 m in this area. Threatened species that will receive protection in this area include mako sharks, as this area is part of their nursery area. The proposed MPA includes foraging grounds of the critically endangered Amsterdam Albatross, the endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, the near threatened Black-browed Albatross, the endangered Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, the endangered Sooty Albatross and the critically endangered Tristan Albatross.

 

BENEFITS

  • SUPPORTS CLIMATE RESILIENCE BY ProtectING A RANGE OF HABITATS 200 M To 2000 m IN A SMALL SPACE

  • Protects THREE DIFFERENT fragile coral habitats

  • First protection on an Indian Ocean seamount AND DEEP ABYSS

  • vital nursery area for young Mako sharks