Association of juveniles of four fish species with sandbanks in Durban Bay, KwaZulu Natal.
Graham, M. A.
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Estuaries in South Africa are important nursery areas for the juveniles of many fish species. The condition of many of these systems has, however, deteriorated as a result of degradation caused by urban, industrial and agricultural development. An assessment of the role of harbours, particularly in KwaZulu Natal, as nursery grounds has therefore become an important issue. Durban Bay has undergone considerable changes since the mid-1800s and further developments are proposed. If these developments continue, they will result in the loss of large areas of the sandbanks, but Portnet has recognised the need to integrate environmental considerations into future port developments and operations. It was the overall aim of this study to establish the nature of the association of the juveniles of four common fish species viz. Pomadasys commersonnii, Gerres filamentosus, Liza dumerilii and Leiognathus equula with these sandbanks and, thereby assess the impact of their removal. It was found that all species were abundant on the sandbanks and that the diets of P. commersonnii, G. fiiamentosus and L. equuia were very similar, consisting primarily of bivalve siphon tips, benthic crustaceans and polychaetes. The respective contributions of each food type to the diet varied with species. The diet of L. dumerilii differed from that of the other three species, consisting primarily of benthic floc, foraminiferans, ostracods and sponge spicules. Despite differences in selectivity, it was concluded, from studies of the benthos in the harbour, that all four species, irrespective of size, were feeding on these sandbanks, as opposed to in the channels, throughout the year. Removal of the sandbanks for the construction of a new pier would, thus, result in the elimination of important feeding grounds for the juveniles of these four species.