Over the Easter weekend I was visiting Hermanus and went for a swim at The Marine Pool as, due to the spring tide, the beaches at Voëlklip and Langbaai were too dangerous.
Fortunately, I had my goggles and snorkel with me, and I immediately noticed that the pool was very badly infested with sea urchins. Crayfish feed on sea urchins, so presumably the sea urchins have flourished due to the absence of the crayfish in the pool.
Visitors and tourists are attracted to swim in the pool by its natural beauty and proximity to the ocean. I did not notice any sign warning bathers to wear protective footwear.
Only those who have endured the subsequent pain and suffering of standing on sea urchins, will appreciate the context of this problem – sepsis, painful removal of the broken-off spikes, etc. The symptoms only manifest themselves a number of days after the event – i.e. pain and swelling under the feet, with many people unaware of the cause of the problem.
I spoke to Hermanus marine legend Brian MacFarlane and he is aware of the issue as he has taken his grandchildren fishing in the pool. Brian is prepared to help coordinate a ‘Clean The Marine Pool of Sea Urchins’ campaign to be undertaken by volunteers over weekends. The problem is extensive in that each urchin must be picked up and removed by hand and there are thousands of them.
As things stand, the pool is a danger for unsuspecting barefoot visitors and as such, very detrimental to the important tourist trade.
It is appreciated that the Overstrand Municipality currently has bigger fish to fry than prioritising this problem, but I am sure that other entities could well get involved. Volunteers could be rewarded for each bag of undamaged urchins that they remove.