Research Papers

Movement patterns of surf-zone fish species in a subtropical marine protected area on the east coast of South Africa

Published in: African Journal of Marine Science
Volume 37, issue 1, 2015 , pages: 99–114
DOI: 10.2989/1814232X.2015.1023220
Author(s): BQ MannOceanographic Research Institute, South Africa, PD CowleySouth African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, South Africa, ST FennessyOceanographic Research Institute, South Africa


A long-term mark-recapture study was used to assess the movement patterns of surf-zone fishes in the St Lucia Marine Reserve, a marine protected area within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site on the east coast of South Africa. Between 2001 and 2013, 6 613 fish from 71 species, caught by hook and line, were tagged at four sites within and adjacent to a no-take marine sanctuary area. A total of 1 004 (15.2%) recaptures were made from 17 species. The majority (82.4%) of these species displayed station-keeping behaviour, whereas only three were classified as wider-ranging species, and no species with discernible migratory behaviour was observed. Findings for five species with the highest recapture rates, namely Pomadasys furcatus, Epinephelus andersoni, E. marginatus, Dinoperca petersi and Lutjanus rivulatus, are presented in greater detail. Recapture rates ranged from 7% to 50% and time at liberty from 0 to 3 163 days. Individuals of all five species displayed station-keeping behaviour, with the 95th percentile of intra-study-site movements varying between 200 and 1 025 m (linear distance). However, four of the five species also displayed some ranging behaviour and made exploratory excursions ranging from 3.5 to 125 km, in both northerly and southerly directions. The dominance of station-keeping behaviour suggests that the St Lucia Marine Reserve sanctuary zone provides an important refuge for these species, with some export to adjacent areas.

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