Research Papers

Shallow-water, nearshore current dynamics in Algoa Bay, South Africa, with notes on the implications for larval fish dispersal

Published in: African Journal of Marine Science
Volume 35, issue 2, 2013, pages: 269–282
DOI: 10.2989/1814232X.2013.798593
Author(s): P PattrickDepartment of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, South Africa, NA Strydom, South Africa, WS Goschen, South Africa


Nearshore currents play a vital role in the transport of eggs and larval stages of fish. However, little is known about their complexity and the implications for dispersal of fish larvae. The study describes the complexity of the shallow nearshore environment in eastern Algoa Bay, on the south-east coast of South Africa, and its effect on larval fish ecology. An ADCP was used to assess short-term spatial current variability across the nearshore (4–20 m depth) during intensive one-day-transect profiling surveys. Data showing long-term temporal variability was collected half-hourly from a bottom-moored (15–20 m depth) ADCP over the course of one year (May 2006–May 2007). The short-term profiling revealed complexity in both current speed and direction with largely wind-driven flow patterns identified. The long-term data showed that the currents were aligned approximately west/east with prevailing winds and local shoreline. Modal speeds of 8 cm s–1 near the surface (4 m) and 6 cm s–1 near the bottom (14 m) of the water column are much lower than the average swimming speeds of postflexion larvae known to occur in the area. Mean current speed decreased with depth from ∼30 cm s–1 (4 m) to ∼10 cm s–1 (14 m), suggesting opportunities for depth refuge from current displacement in older larvae. Potential nett displacements were greater during the spring and summer, coinciding with peak fish breeding with passive eggs and early stage larvae travelling distances of up to 475 km near the surface of the water column. These maximum dispersal distances recorded during the present study differ considerably by half that from other calculations made for the area, highlighting a data error in a previous study. These predictions provide preliminary indications of potential transport from a point source and do not factor in anomalous local oceanography, benthic topographic impediments to transport or the complexities of larval fish behaviour.

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