Research Article

Movement patterns and growth rate of the whitespotted wedgefish Rhynchobatus djiddensis in southern Africa based on tag-recapture data

Published in: African Journal of Marine Science
Volume 43, issue 2, 2021 , pages: 201–213
DOI: 10.2989/1814232X.2021.1906318
Author(s): GL Jordaan, South Africa, BQ Mann, South Africa, R Daly, South Africa, SW Dunlop, South Africa, PD Cowley, South Africa

Abstract

Information on the movement ecology of endangered species is critical for the implementation of effective conservation measures. This study made use of a long-term dart tagging dataset to reveal the movement patterns and growth rates of two size classes of the Critically Endangered whitespotted wedgefish Rhynchobatus djiddensis within its southern African distribution, which can have important implications for fisheries management. A total of 4 768 individuals were tagged with 340 recaptures recorded, ranging from 1 to 2 639 days (7.2 years) at liberty. Most of the tag releases and recaptures occurred within the KwaZulu-Natal central region in South Africa, with catches increasing significantly during summer (October to March). Most recaptures (43%) were recorded within 5 km of the tagging (release) site. Tagged adults recorded significantly greater distances moved than juveniles (p < 0.002) but there was no significant difference between juveniles or adults in terms of their direction of movement (p > 0.30). A Francis growth model showed that smaller individuals had a substantially faster growth rate (198.69 [SE 21.75] mm year−1) compared with larger individuals (57.41 [SE 27.83] mm year−1) confirming that the species is relatively slow-growing. Ultimately, this study identified important knowledge gaps in the broadscale movement patterns of R. djiddensis and provided new information on the growth rate of this Critically Endangered species. Filling in these knowledge gaps will aid in conservation measures for two important size classes of the R. djiddensis population as the species faces increasing targeted fishing pressure.

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