• Cape Town Tidal Pools

Press release: False Bay Tidal Pools

Updated: Mar 1, 2018



It is National Marine Week from 9 – 15 October and Sea-Change Project and The Beach Co-op have been working together with The City of Cape Town to find environmentally friendly ways to maintain our tidal pools in False Bay for the safety of both humans and marine wildlife that thrive in these pools.

Lisa Beasley, of the Sea-Change Project and a St James resident, has been swimming at the St James pool daily since March 2017, and has discovered the rich diversity that exists on our doorstep in False Bay. 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.

The three tidal pools (St James, Dalebrook, Woolley’s) were commissioned in 1911 and have been a part of the history and community for 200 years. Originally constructed to protect bathers from sharks and big waves, they were built in the natural bays along the coast. St James pool was built on the ruins of an ancient Khoi-San fish trap. They built low walls with stones and rocks; water would flow over the rocks and recede through gaps leaving fish behind.

Today these pools are visited by hundreds of people a month and are the permanent home to thousands of marine species including a variety of Klipvis, crustaceans, nudibranchs, sea hares, molluscs, starfish, anemones and plants. These pools have traditionally been cleaned and drained for years, often on a monthly basis, but this winter there was a break in the cleaning schedule due to a gap in the contract and the desire to find more environmentally friendly ways of maintaining the pools. During this time we have seen and experienced the incredible diversity that these pools can hold.

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. 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.

As the summer months approach there has been an increased pressure from the public to clean the pools that requires draining, scrubbing, scraping and painting the walls of the pools. Sea-Change Project and The Beach Co-op have mobilised discussions with The City Of Cape Town, ocean-lovers and residents to try and find solutions together to help preserve the life in these pools. These discussions have resulted in testing the pool cleaning protocol which took place at the end of September 2017.

A test clean was initiated at the St James Pool led by Lisa and a few volunteers. The top of the walls of the pool was cleaned without using any harmful chemicals and without having to drain the pool which would kill most of the marine inhabitants. Furthermore, the clean at Dalebrook was undertaken with the City of Cape Town, Sea-Change project and their contractor.

While most people have been pleased with the outcomes and the approach followed, there have been a few complaints. The main concern has been that the walls and steps are slippery and people may fall. This has been addressed by scrubbing the top of the walls and the top 10cm of the height of the walls.

The pools fall within the "no take" zone boundary of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area (MPA) where no fishing or extractive activities are allowed.

“Prohibiting/stopping the extraction and killing of marine life that these cleans have done in the past is not only advised, but has in fact already been made law. It is an absolute privilege to have swimming pools within these MPA areas. We are in fact upholding the laws and rules already in place by initiating these new cleaning protocols” says Lisa.

Last weekend we took some of the local residents that swim in the pools daily beneath the surface for a different perspective in an effort to educate and allow people to share in the incredible experience that is available to us. “I will never look at tidal pools in the same way,” said Deborah Choate one of the local residents.

We have been very appreciative of the co-operative and engaging way in which The City of Cape Town has worked with Sea-Change Project and The Beach Co-op to address how we care for both our marine diversity and at the same time addressing the pool users and their concerns. We hope to continue working together to find solutions that will work for both the marine environment and people that swim at the pools. “In the next few weeks we will be attending a meeting hosted by The City of Cape Town to present the rich marine biodiversity we have found in our pools, as well as plans for non damaging cleans going forward,” says Lisa. For more information about this or to voice concerns or support conscious cleans, please mail the city, emphasising the value of preserving these small wild spaces on our doorstep.


Lisa Beasley

Sea-Change Project


Contact to go for a pool snorkel

Aaniyah Omardien

Founder: The Beach Co-op


City of Cape Town contacts:

Helen Jordaan

Aimee Kuhl

Further Quotes:

“Small acts like cleaning our tidal pools and killing thousands of creatures and plants may seem insignificant in the scale of the big ocean, but its many many tiny acts like this that have added to us wiping out half of the Earths animals in the last 50 years. We are killing the golden goose - The ecological foundation holds up all our social, financial and political issues, yet we keep chipping away at our most precious home, our life blood, as if we've forgotten what's it's doing for us every day.”

Craig Foster

Sea-Change Project

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