Various species breed in False Bay tidal pools

Local swimmers Deborah Choate and Dee Davies-Coleman.

National Marine Week which ran last week from October 9 to October15 holds special relevance for environmental activists who are trying to protect marine-ecosystems in False Bay’s tidal pools.

Lisa Beasley, of the Sea-Change Project and a St James resident, has been swimming at the St James Pool daily since March, and has discovered the rich diversity on our doorstep. Aaniyah Omardien, founder of The Beach Co-op, met Lisa a few months ago and has been diving and swimming with her almost daily since.

Together they want to change the way the public see False Bay’s tidal pools. The three tidal pools (St James, Dalebrook and Woolley’s) were commissioned in 1911. They were built in coves to protect bathers from sharks and big waves. The St James pool was built on the ruins of an ancient Khoisan fish trap. The pools are visited by hundreds of bathers each month, but they are also home to thousands of marine species, including a variety of klipvis, crustaceans, nudibranchs, sea hares, molluscs, starfish, anemones and plants.

Traditionally, the pools have been drained and cleaned each month, but this winter a lull in the cleaning schedule saw an explosion of marine life.

“Over the last few months, we have witnessed various species, using the protection these pools offer, for breeding and laying eggs, such as the dark shyshark and the tuberculate cuttlefish,” says Aaniyah.

The tuberculate cuttlefish is a tiny cephalopod, related to the octopus, that is endemic to the Cape Peninsula. Some of the first possible footage of them laying eggs was captured in the St James pool recently.

“The pools provide the perfect environment for us to show and tell people about our rich biodiversity and why we should be caring for our marine heritage” says Aaniyah.

Asthesummermonths approach, there has been growing pressure from the public to clean the pools, but that means draining them and then scrubbing, scraping and painting the walls.

But after the Sea-Change Project and The Beach Co-op raised their concerns with the City of Cape Town, ocean lovers and residents, Lisa and some volunteers tried out the new environmentally friendly cleaning method at St James Pool at the end of September.

They cleaned the top of the pool’s walls without using any harmful chemicals and without having to drain the pool.

Then the project moved to the Dalebrook Pool. There were some complaints about the new cleaning method leaving walls and steps slippery and bathers falling as a result, but the cleaners have tried to solve that issue by scrubbing the tops of the walls.

Lisa says the pools fall within the “no take” zone of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area (MPA) where no fishing or extractive activities are allowed, so by using cleaning methods that don’t kill marine life“we are, in fact upholding the laws and rules already in place”.

Last weekend Lisa and Aaniyah took some regulars at the pools beneath the surface to see the marine life that has thrived under the new cleaning regimen.

One of them, Deborah Choate, said afterwards: “I will never look at tidal pools in the same way.”