Original Articles

Influence of buoyancy and vertical distribution of sardine Sardinops sagax eggs and larvae on their transport in the northern Benguela ecosystem


In recent years, sardine Sardinops sagax spawning has been recorded inshore off central Namibia. Field observations on eggs and laboratory measurements show that spawning, demonstrated by the distribution of newly spawned eggs, takes place just below the upper mixed layer. The high positive buoyancy of the eggs causes them to ascend rapidly to the surface layer, where they are moved offshore by upwelling-induced offshore transport. However, increased wind-induced mixing also influences the vertical distribution of eggs, causing them to be partly mixed down below the layer moving offshore and into the layer moving inshore. This mechanism acts to retard the transport and offshore loss of eggs from the spawning areas. The vertical distribution of sardine larvae, with highest concentrations deeper than 20 m, indicates active movement out of the layer moving offshore, and this tendency seems to be more pronounced for older larvae. Hence, vertical migration of larvae is an additional factor mitigating their loss from nearshore. Taken together, these features seem to minimize the offshore loss of offspring, particularly in periods of low stock biomass when spawning close to the shore seems to be common.

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