Movement bahaviour of three South African inshore sparid species in rocky intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats

Watt-Pringle, Peter Andrew (2009) Movement bahaviour of three South African inshore sparid species in rocky intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




This study investigated the movement behaviour of three inshore South African sparids – blacktail (Diplodus sargus capensis), zebra (Diplodus cervinus hottentotus) and white musselcracker (Sparodon durbanensis), popular inshore fishery species caught in appreciable numbers along much of the South African coast. The first study component examined movements of juveniles in a rocky intertidal nursery area at Schoenmakerskop near Port Elizabeth. Juveniles in a single gully were tagged with Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) and resighted at the study site on snorkelling gear over a seven-month period. Tagged zebra and musselcracker displayed limited movement between potential low tide refuges, being observed repeatedly in the same gully over the full duration of the study. However, blacktail displayed greater movements and were seen infrequently in the later period of the study, probably having undergone an ontogenetic habitat shift to subtidal areas. There was evidence that blacktail maintain use of their intertidal nursery over high tide, during which the other two species moved into shallower areas adjacent to their low tide refuge. The results of three national tagging programs were analysed to determine the movement patterns of adolescent and adult fishes. The coast-wide ORI-WWF National Voluntary Tagging Program and two dedicated research programs in marine protected areas (MPAs) at De Hoop MPA and Tsitsikamma National Park (TNP) recorded few large-scale movements of tagged adult blacktail, zebra and juvenile musselcracker. High spatial-resolution data from the TNP suggested movements were usually on scales far smaller than one km. Together with long periods at liberty for many recaptured individuals, this suggests these fishes are longterm residents of small home range areas. However, tagged musselcracker over 600 mm forklength (adults) were observed to make large-scale movements, including some in excess of 800 km from Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal waters. Predominantly eastward movements of adults recaptured during the spawning season indicate seasonal spawning migrations that occur in different regions of the coast. These enable the use of prevailing oceanographic currents to disperse eggs and larvae to suitable rocky nursery abitat. The third component of this study made use of high-resolution data on the temporal and spatial distribution of catches by scientific angling in the TNP to examine the daily activity patterns of the study species in relation to diel and tidal cycles, and habitat use. Blacktail capture probability was correlated with the diurnal light cycle, with peaks close to twilight suggesting elevated crepuscular foraging activity. Catches of blacktail, zebra and small musselcracker were correlated with the tidal cycle, foraging peaking over high tide periods. All three species used shallow inshore habitats extensively for foraging, blacktail showing a preference for sandy areas, while zebra and small musselcracker preferred shallow reef. Capture probability of larger musselcracker, however, was unrelated to habitat, possibly evidence of increasing area and habitat use with an ontogenetic change in diet. The lifetime movement patterns of these three species are discussed in relation to conservation measures and their management in South African fisheries. Restricted movement throughout post-settlement life for blacktail and zebra, and during the juvenile phase for musselcracker, makes local populations vulnerable to overexploitation. At present, MPAs probably play an important role in protecting local blacktail and zebra populations from overexploitation, and limited post-settlement movements mean the degree of larval dispersal between protected and adjacent areas will likely determine the effectiveness of MPAs in enhancing fisheries for these species. By contrast, MPAs likely provide recruits to fisheries for musselcracker during ontogenetic movements and dispersal from MPAs during spawning migrations. MPAs only offer partial protection to adult musselcracker populations in the spawning season, but this could nevertheless be significant under high levels of exploitation.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:marine fish; movement; tagging; VIE; blacktail; zebra; white musselcracker
Subjects:S Agriculture > SH Aquaculture. Fisheries. Angling
Supervisors:Cowley, Paul (Dr.)
ID Code:1757
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:01 Sep 2010 09:53
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:21
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