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Doctoral Degrees (Marine Biology)

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    Microplankton community structure in the subtropical Mlalazi estuary.
    (2021) Fru Azinwi, Nche-Fambo.; Scharler, Ursula Michaela.
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    Bioeconomic feasibility of aquaponics in South Africa: leapfrogging for sustainable development of freshwater aquaculture.
    (2020) Adeleke, Babatunde Ayoade.; Robertson-Andersson, Deborah Vivienne.; Moodley, Ganas Kandasamy.; Taylor, Simone.
    Food security is being threatened globally due to a combination of factors, such as climate change, anthropogenic pressures and burgeoning competition for limited water and land resources. The need to adopt environmentally and economically sound sustainable food production systems which are adaptable to the prevailing environmental stressors is imperative. Aquaponics sustainably converts aquaculture waste into nutrients for plant uptake resulting in an unconventional food production system which potentially provides an economically viable means of food production. Integrated recirculating aquaculture as adaptive technology is complex and capital intensive, thus, must be financially sustainable. This study, therefore, assessed the bioeconomic feasibility of aquaponics (a branch of aquaculture) in South Africa as a potential leapfrog technology for the rapid development of aquaculture, attainment of food security and local economic development. Quantitative and qualitative SWOT analyses, and key success factors of leading aquaculture players in Africa (Egypt, Nigeria and Uganda) were used as a benchmark to assess the South African aquaculture sector. Qualitative analysis of South African aquaculture sector vis-à-vis the leading aquaculture players in Africa reveals a suboptimal environment that is not suitable to drive costeffective and competitive conventional large-scale commercial aquaculture. Also, inadequate enabling environment due to bureaucratic hindrances towards the implementation of well-crafted aquaculture development policies and framework, and higher operating cost were identified. The quantitative SWOT analysis of key aquaculture players in Africa revealed Egypt was having the highest aquaculture development competitive strengths, and Nigeria showed the highest aquaculture development and market opportunities. Quantitative SWOT analysis of key aquaculture species in South Africa showed trout and tilapia have the highest competitive strengths, while abalone, oyster and marron crayfish showed good market opportunities but weak in competitive strengths. Growth performance of Oreochromis mossambicus and the yields from plants – tomato, pepper and cucumber due to the effects of plant density and stem pruning were assessed in a twin system designed, constructed and operationalized as a low-cost, small-scale aquaponic system. The economic viability of the aquaponic system was assessed using the price trend analysis of fresh produce in South Africa, biomass yield, cost inputs and revenue models using conventional aquaponic cultural methods. Financial performance was determined using financial metrics such as return on investment (ROI), net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR) and profitability. Analyses were modelled to determine the financial performance of the aquaponic system. The growth performance and yield of fish cultured in the aquaponic system showed excellent performance based on FCR (1.25 %), survival rate (97.5 %), LWR r2 (0.945), regression coefficient b (3.1) and condition factor K (1.93). Total and marketable yield of vegetables (tomato, sweet pepper and cucumber) significantly increased (p < 0.05) with a higher plant density of 8 plants /m2 compared to 5 plants/m2. Plants with a higher stem pruning to two and three stems performed significantly better than those pruned to one stem (p < 0.05). The interactive effects of a higher plant density and stem pruning resulted in significant (p < 0.05) higher total and marketable yields with all the plants. Economic analysis of the small-scale aquaponic setup and operation did not present economic feasibility with the adoption of conventional cultural techniques (a revenue model of 59:41 % fish to plant ratio) as a result of the higher operating cost associated with fish production. A fish to plant revenue model of 42 : 58 % ratio (achieved by adopting optimized cultural technique) however, showed marginal economic viability. Plant yield in aquaponics can be improved for higher economic returns through the synergistic optimization of plant density and stem pruning while adopting other optimal cultural management practices. A minimum revenue model of 30 : 70 % fish to plant ratio is recommended for aquaponic operations in South Africa to attain economic feasibility. Aquaponics thus presents optimistic potential to drive sustainable and feasible food production in South Africa with the adoption of viable production and marketing strategies.
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    Microplastic concentrations on the urban coastline of KwaZulu–Natal, South Africa, and its impact on juvenile fish.
    (2018) Naidoo, Trishan.; Glassom, David.; Smit, Albertus J.
    The global production of plastics per annum has increased from 1.5 million tonnes in the 1950‘s to 300 million tonnes today. Following this increasing production trend, plastic concentrations have increased over time in marine environments. Improper sewage treatment, industrial spillages, garbage and fishing activities among many others, have made the marine environment a sink for plastic debris. The main aims of this study were to determine (1) microplastic levels within five estuaries along the Durban coastline and on intervening beaches, (2) the incidence of plastic ingestion by estuarine mullet, (3) the effects of plastic ingestion on long–term fish health and (4) the plastic concentrations along the KwaZulu–Natal coastal shelf. To achieve these aims (1) plastic was isolated from estuarine sediment, beach sediment and the surface water of each estuary, (2) fish from the most polluted estuary were dissected to investigate the incidence of plastic ingestion, (3) small juvenile fish were kept in tanks and fed plastics for three months to monitor their growth and survival and (4) coastal water samples were collected using a manta trawl net to quantify floating debris in the ocean. Overall, an attenuating plastic concentration trend away from the city centre was found, with the Durban Harbour, Isipingo and uMgeni Estuaries having the highest contamination levels. The highest recorded plastic levels were found in the Bayhead area of the harbour, with 745.4 ± 129.7 particles per 500 mL, which mostly consisted of plastic fragments. Fibres dominated other estuaries with proportions ranging from 38% of total plastics in the uMgeni Estuary to 66% in the Mdloti. Plastic particle concentration in estuarine sediment generally increased from larger to smaller size classes. High plastic concentrations were also found on the coastal shelf of KwaZulu–Natal, with sites south of the harbour having the highest plastic concentrations, however no seasonal differences were found. There is also evidence pointing toward long range movement of particles and thus pollution at the source must be dealt with before it reaches the open ocean. Seventy three percent of the mullet sampled at the harbour ingested plastic particles with an average of 3.751 ± 4.667 (S.D.) particles per fish. Particles that were ingested were mainly fibres that are thought to come from sewage inputs to the harbour. Juvenile fish in microplastic feeding experiments had lower growth and survival than control fish. This has possible economic and ecological consequences for future fish stocks that use urban estuaries as nursing areas.
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    The fertilisation and recruitment dynamics of scleractinian corals on South Africa's high-latitude reefs.
    (2018) Hart, Justin Richard.; Schleyer, Michael Henry.
    2 The production of coral offspring and their survival through early ontogeny to sexual maturity 3 are both vitally important for the persistence of coral-dominated reefs. Understanding factors 4 which affect these processes is important where limited connectivity occurs. This is the case 5 on the high-latitude Two-mile Reef (TMR) at Sodwana Bay in South Africa. A combination of 6 in situ and ex situ experimental work was conducted, investigating factors which affect the pre7 and post-settlement stages of corals. In vitro experiments conducted on two representative 8 scleractinian broadcast spawning corals, Acropora austera and Hydnophora exesa, revealed 9 that fertilisation success in both species diminishes significantly with a reduction in sperm 10 concentration and water salinity. Fertilisation success was highest for A. austera at 106 sperm 11 ml-1 (56.46% ± 0.83, mean ± SE), and at 105 sperm ml-1 (38.76% ± 1.29) for H. exesa. At 104 12 sperm ml-1 there was a significant reduction in fertilisation of 80% and 58% for the respective 13 species. Additionally, fertilisation success of A. austera and H. exesa decreased significantly 14 by 56% and 79% respectively, when salinity was reduced by 7.06 psu. Ex situ settlement 15 experiments were then conducted to assess the settlement of their larvae in response to the 16 presence of two crustose coralline algae (CCA) a Hydrolithon sp. and Mesophyllum sp. and 17 filtered sea water (FSW) control. Settlement in the presence of Mesophyllum was not 18 significantly different from FSW, but a significant trend was observed in the presence of 19 Hydrolithon, where settlement of both corals peaked. While H. exesa post-settlement success 20 was also greatest in the Hydrolithon treatment (55.00 ± 10.47%), this was not the case for A. 21 austera, which obtained highest post-settlement success in the Mesophyllum treatment (21.67 22 ± 7.23%). However, these trends were not significant. Acropora austera and H. exesa were 23 still capable of settlement 69 and 75 days after fertilisation respectively in FSW. In general, 24 more settlement occurred on container surfaces than on CCA fragments. Results from this 25 study suggest that the inducing effect of CCA is coral and CCA taxon-specific, and that A. 26 austera planulae are more stringent in their settlement requirements. 27 28 In situ experiments were conducted by attaching settlement tiles to concrete Y-frames on TMR 29 for six months to assess how coral recruitment differs according to method of settlement tile 30 attachment onto concrete y-frames and how the exclusion of herbivores and predators affects 31 coral recruitment onto tiles. A new, grooved settlement tile was designed to provide refuge microhabitats on the top surface of the tiles. In total, 32 579 recruits were detected on the 33 settlement tiles, with pocilloporids dominating the recruit composition (64%). 34 35 Grooved tiles were also used to assess whether coral recruit density varied between different 36 microhabitats adjacent to the tile edge (a narrow, 5 mm gap; a wide, 15 mm gap; and tiles raised 37 above the gap). Most recruitment occurred on the vertical edges and towards the edge perimeter 38 of grooved tiles regardless of treatment. The majority of recruitment on the top surface of tiles 39 occurred in the grooves (74.17%). Coral recruit densities differed significantly between the 40 three edge microhabitats, with recruit density significantly less on tiles adjacent to narrow gaps. 41 Raised tiles and tiles with a wide gap had two- and three-fold more recruits (644.33 ± 149.43 42 and 979.29 ± 170.88 recruits m-2) than tiles with a narrow gap (311.05 ± 80.82 recruits m-2). 43 This suggests that the microhabitat associated with the method of tile attachment can have a 44 significant effect on recruitment. Finally, the effect of large herbivores and predators on coral 45 recruitment and the benthic communities was assessed by placing exclusion cages over tiles. 46 Recruit densities had a two-fold reduction when herbivores and predators were excluded. 47 Additionally, CCA cover was also significantly reduced on caged tiles, and the percentage of 48 erect foliose algae, encrusting macroalgae, and turf algae was significantly greater compared 49 to uncaged tiles. This indicates that grazers may assist coral recruitment on TMR. 50 51 This study provided the first assessment of fertilisation success in corals at high-latitude in 52 South Africa and the results are related to information on gene flow and reef resilience. The 53 importance of suitable settlement microhabitats and grazers are also highlighted and stress the 54 need for a multi-faceted management approach to coral conservation. Furthermore, from an 55 experimental point of view, the methodological techniques used to quantify in situ recruitment, 56 such as settlement surface design and attachment technique, may have important implications 57 in quantifying recruit densities and settlement preferences. Such differences must be 58 considered when comparing the results of recruit densities in studies using dissimilar 59 techniques. 60
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    Ciliate-zooplankton epibiosis in Lake St Lucia.
    (2018) Jones, Salome.; Vosloo, Andre.; Perissinotto, Renzo.; Carrasco, Nicola Kim.
    Epibiosis is a symbiotic association of two organisms in which one species (epibiont) uses the surface of another species (basibiont or host) as an attachment substrate. An increasing number of studies are revealing that epibionts have mainly deleterious effects on crustacean meso-zooplankton (hereafter referred to simply as zooplankton) hosts. In spite of its widespread occurrence, there are very few studies in Africa that address epibiosis in the aquatic environment, particularly involving zooplankton as hosts. Epibiotic ciliates are often found attached to zooplankton in the St Lucia Estuary, in northan KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. St Lucia is the largest estuarine lake in Africa and is globally recognized for its ecological importance. A study was conducted in St Lucia between 2015 and 2017, with the aim of determining: the identity of the epibiotic ciliates; their species-specific association with the zooplankton of St Lucia; the effects they have on their hosts and the environmental conditions that promote their proliferation. Based on live observations and images obtained from protargol staining and scanning electron microscopy, the epibiotic ciliates in the St Lucia Estuary were identified as the peritrich sessilid Epistylis sp. (Chapter 1). The results of the experimental study in Chapter 2 were that Epistylis sp. is species-specific, attaching only to the dominant calanoid copepod Pseudodiaptomus stuhlmanni (mainly adults) and that this relationship is host density dependent. Another finding of Chapter 2 was that Epistylis sp. exerts a negative effect on the survivorship of heavily covered P. stuhlmanni. The results of Chapter 3 revealed a low RNA content and RNA:DNA ratio in epibiont-hosting P. stuhlmanni compared with their non-hosting counterparts, which implies a compromised nutritional status of epibiont-hosting copepods. Laboratory-based experiments detailed in Chapters 4 and 5 revealed that Epistylis sp. is: a) unaffected by temperature; and b) favoured by salinities below 20 and organically rich turbidity within the range 250–500 NTU. Results obtained from monthly field observations throughout 2016 (Chapter 6) showed no correlation of Epistylis sp. with these physico-chemical parameters and with the abundance of P. stuhlmanni. The latter result may be due to the uncharacteristically low abundance of the host P. stuhlmanni during the sampling period (January–December 2016). Overall, findings of this study suggest that peritrich epibionts can substantially and negatively affect host species and that they have a complex, context-dependent relationship with environmental conditions. The ecological implications of ciliate-zooplankton epibiosis in the St Lucia Estuary and in similar systems are discussed.
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    Molecular phylogeny and seascape genetics of the panulirus homarus subspecies in the Western Indian Ocean.
    (2016) Singh, Sohana.; Groeneveld, Johan Conrad.; Willows-Munro, Sandi.
    Abstract available in PDF file.
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    Development of a sediment toxicity test for the South African coastal environment using the endemic amphipod, Grandidierella lignorum Barnard 1935 (Amphipoda: Aoridae).
    (2013) Masikane, Ntuthuko Fortune.; Scharler, Ursula Michaela.; Newman, Brent K.
    Contaminants introduced in solution to coastal waters eventually accumulate in sediment. Pollution by these contaminants is only evident when biological effects occur. Geochemical procedures lack the ability to identify biological effects of pollution. Biological methods (i.e. community structure analyses and/or bioassays) are currently the best available techniques for pollution assessment. Standardised and locally relevant protocols for pollution assessment are lacking in many developing countries, including South Africa. This study aims to develop a sediment toxicity testing protocol using an amphipod species endemic to South Africa, Grandidierella lignorum. Initial research focussed on establishing ranges of physico-chemical parameters (i.e. salinity, temperature, sediment grain size and organic matter content) within which sediment toxicity tests should be performed. The sensitivity of the amphipod was then determined by exposing the amphipod to cadmium, copper and zinc at various salinities. Lastly, the amphipod was exposed to effluents (to test the amphipod’s sensitivity in water only tests) and whole sediment (to tests the amphipod’s sensitivity to solid phase material). G. lignorum tolerates salinities between 0 and 56, but prefers salinities between 7 and 42. Preferred salinity range is modified by temperature, with salinity of 42 becoming less tolerable. Salinities between 7 and 35 are most preferred at 10-25°C. G. lignorum prefers fine- (27.48±12.13%), medium- (25.11±12.99%) and coarse-grained sand (21.45±8.02%). Sediment with low (≤2%) organic matter content is most preferable, regardless of sediment grain size or type of organic matter (protein-rich vs. carbohydrate-rich). Cadmium toxicity decreased with increasing salinity (LC₅₀: 0.34 ± 0.17 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 7), 0.73 ± 0.05 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 21) and 1.08 ± 0.49 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 35)). Zinc toxicity increased with decreasing salinity (1.56 ± 0.33 mg l⁻¹ at a salinity of 21 to 0.99 ± 0.13 mg l⁻¹ at a salinity of 7) and with increasing salinity (from salinity of 21 to 0.82 ± 0.19 mg l⁻¹ at a salinity of 35). Copper toxicity did not differ significantly with salinity and ranged between 0.72 ± 0.18 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 35) and 0.89 ± 0.24 mg l⁻¹ (salinity of 21). Toxicity testing using Grandidierella lignorum should be performed in coarse- to fine-grained sediment at salinities of 7 - 35, at 10 – 25°C. Amphipods do not need to be fed during toxicity testing. A control chart using cadmium as a reference toxicant was established to determine the acceptability of toxicity results. Toxicity test results should be accepted when cadmium toxicity falls between 0.49 and 4.02 mg l⁻¹. The amphipod responded consistently to effluents and was able to discriminate polluted and unpolluted sediment in Durban Bay. Recommendations for refining the effluent and sediment toxicity test are suggested.
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    Ecological genetic connectivity between and within southeast African marginal coral reefs.
    (2014) Montoya-Maya, Phanor H.; Schleyer, Michael H.; Macdonald, Angus Hector Harold.
    Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established along the East African coast to protect coral communities from human and natural disturbance. Their success is dependent on the degree to which resource populations are self-seeding or otherwise connected. Estimates of contemporary gene flow on or between south-east African reefs are thus required to reveal the interdependence of the South African coral communities and those to the north. Accordingly, the ecologically relevant (1 or 2 generations) connectivity of two broadcast-spawning corals, Acropora austera and Platygyra daedalea, was assessed on reefs in the region, from the Chagos Archipelago to Bazaruto Island in Mozambique and Sodwana Bay in South Africa, using hyper-variable genetic markers. Analysis of genetic diversity and differentiation provided evidence for the existence of four discrete genetic populations of A. austera and five of P. daedalea in the sampled area. Higher genetic diversity was found on northern South African reefs (Nine-mile Reef and Rabbit Rock) and migration patterns inferred from assignment tests suggested that, at ecological time scales, South African reefs are disconnected from those in Mozambique and might originate from a source of gene flow that was not sampled. The analysis of fine-scale genetic connectivity conducted on Two-mile Reef (TMR) demonstrated the existence of significant spatial genetic structure at the reefal scale that might be related to the non-random dispersal of coral larvae, putatively explaining the genetic discontinuity observed in the region. Altogether, the results are consistent with the isolation observed in other studies using less variable markers, and support the hypothesis that there is demographic discontinuity between the coral populations along the south-east African coast. More importantly, Acropora austera and P. daedalea represent different life strategies in the South African reef communities yet manifested similar genetic patterns, suggesting that these corals are responding similarly to forces that are driving genetic connectivity in the region. For management purposes, the genetically distinct populations identified at each of the spatial scales analysed in this study may correspond to management units, or evolutionarily significant units. Furthermore, since some reefs appear to act as “landing-sites” for migrants (Nine-mile Reef) and there is evidence of significant within-reef genetic structure (TMR), an adaptive management framework would be the best option for the MPA in the region.
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    Diversity of bivalve molluscs within the St Lucia estuarine system, with emphasis on the ecophysiology of Solen cylindraceus and Brachidontes virgiliae.
    (2014) Nel, Holly Astrid.; Perissinotto, Renzo.; Taylor, Ricky.
    The St Lucia estuarine system, Africa’s largest estuarine lake, is characterised by cyclic changes from hypersaline to oligo/mesohaline conditions in response to alternations between drought and wetter than average years. In addition, St Lucia also experiences stochastic disturbances, such as flooding events that rapidly decrease salinity levels. Due to their sessile and slow moving nature, bivalves are particularly vulnerable to rapid or prolonged changes in the physico-chemical environment. The recent freshwater deprivation crisis that prevailed for the last decade resulted in a significant loss in bivalve species richness within the system. An annotated and illustrated bivalve census revealed the occurrence of twenty-four species within St Lucia between the years 1925 and 2011. However, only six species were recorded during the most recent survey in March 2011. The infaunal razor clam, Solen cylindraceus, and the epifaunal brackwater mussel, Brachidontes virgiliae, are currently the dominant bivalve species within St Lucia. This study, therefore, aimed to record the species richness of bivalves found in Lake St Lucia and to investigate key biological aspects of the two dominant bivalve taxa within the system, under different salinity regimes. Experiments revealed that S. cylindraceus can tolerate salinities between 15 and 65, while B. virgiliae prefers salinity levels ranging from freshwater to 20. The varying tolerance limits, therefore, dictate the distribution of these species during different climatic conditions within the estuarine lake. During wet periods, S. cylindraceus is restricted to the northern reaches, unable to tolerate the oligohaline conditions present in the rest of the system. Conversely, B. virgiliae, often restricted to the Narrows, becomes ubiquitous throughout the system under such conditions. Solen cylindraceus can reach a maximum length of 95 mm. However, in the St Lucia estuarine system, specimens seldom exceed a length of 55 mm, probably because prevailing/re-occurring harsh conditions prevent them from reaching maximum size. In situ measurements of this species also revealed less growth during the first year of life than for the same species in different systems. While B. virgiliae is substantially smaller than S. cylindraceus, the high densities that this species is able to attain makes it an important grazer with the potential to have significant feeding impacts on the local phytoplankton biomass. Results showed that in localised areas, B. virgiliae populations may consume up to eight times the available phytoplankton biomass. These key bivalve species are strongly influenced by the fluctuation in climatic conditions from wet to dry phases. Thus, understanding the effects that climatic shifts have on key estuarine species is essential, as flood and drought events are predicted to increase in frequency, intensity and duration as a result of global climate change.
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    Mark-recapture models for determination of mortality, migration and growth in Pomatomus saltatrix (Teleostei)
    (1996) Govender, Anesh.; Beckley, Lynnath E.; Cochrane, Kevern.
    This study primarily attempts to develop models to estimate population dynamic parameters from mark-recapture data. Model implementation is illustrated using data collected from the South African Pomatomus saltatrix fishery . The models developed allow for the estimation of mortality, survival and migration rates in exploited fish stocks. A growth model is also developed which simultaneously estimates growth parameters as well as validates the hard structure banding using age-length and markrecapture data. There are number of advantages to these models . Given appropriate datasets the mark-recapture models developed in this study can be applied to others species of interest. The models can be modified easily e.g. the growth model can incorporate growth functions other than the von BertalanfIy model. The models can be programmed into a spreadsheet which facilitates the estimation of parameter variances using likelihood profile or bootstrapping methods and allows the testing of model assumptions based on simulations. A general mortality model is developed and is illustrated with mark-recapture data from the P. saltatrix fishery. The model provides an estimate of the average fishing mortality for the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and is then extended to include movement between the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. It utilises mark-recapture data from the Sedgwick's-ORI Tagging Programme as well as effort and catch data from the National Marine Linefish System (NMLS). Estimates of annual fishing mortality rates in KwaZulu-Natal are derived from the model which takes into account immigration of P. saltatrix into KwaZulu-Natal from the Cape as well as emigration from KwaZulu-Natal to other areas including the Cape. The average fishing mortality rate was estimated to be 0.27 year" between 1984 and 1993 in the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal combined. This is likely to be underestimated because of non-reporting of tags, shedding of tags and tag-induced mortality. The model is shown to be robust for estimating the average fishing mortality rate and exploitation rate only when annual variability in fishing mortality is small during the study period. The second model to quantify migration into and out of KwaZulu-Natal waters suggested that the whole adult Cape stock migrates into KwaZulu-Natal during winter. Further, this whole stock is available to fishing in KwaZulu-Natal although there is probably large exchange between inshore and offshore areas and, in the latter zone, P. saltatrix is inaccessible to shore-based fishing. Large fishing mortality rates for the years 1987 to 1993 were estimated in KwaZulu-Natal. These large fishing mortality rates may prevent the return migration of P. saltatrix to the Cape and the model predicts that possibly less than 4% actually return to the Cape. An age and growth study based on otolith readings was also undertaken. Validation of the growth banding as annual was confirmed by developing a model that estimated growth parameters using age-length data and simultaneously estimating times-at liberty of tagged individuals based on arbitrarily chosen band deposition periodicities. It is shown that the assumption of annual banding led to the best prediction of periods of liberty of tagged individuals with small coefficients of variations in the parameter estimates. However, since only a few tagged animals were used in the analysis more research is needed to verify the robustness of this technique for use on other fish. The growth of P. saltatrix in the present study was found to be faster than that of a previous study in South Africa. A modified delay-difference model was developed to estimate relative biomass and relative catch based on observed mean body weights and effort indices. For the period 1956 to 1972 the model predicts that there was a decline in P. saltatrix abundance with corresponding declines in mean weight of the catch. Although during this period there was a general decline in fishing mortality, the fishing mortality was sufficiently high for growth overfishing to occur. It was found that during the 17 year period there was a 44% reduction in biomass which is similar to an estimate in another study. Catch during the period was annually variable but generally declined with time especially in the later years. The decline in average weight harvested and the variable but lower catches during this period are consistent with observations by fishers . An evaluation of the present closed season for P. saltatrix in conserving egg production was performed. It showed that better conservation of egg production is possible by shifting the present closed season (September to November) to extend over the October to December season but this may adversely affect the tourism industry in KwaZulu-Natal. Shortening the present closed season by one month (September) does not affect egg production but increases present yield levels. This study suggests that the closed season may not be useful in terms of reducing the fishing mortality rate on P. saltatrix as fishers may be encouraged to fish harder in the open season to make up for the lost yields of the closed season. Moreover, lengthy closed seasons may also increase fishing mortality because fishers tend to fish harder in the months open to fishing. Assuming no large annual recruitment variations the P. saltatrix stock is presently optimally exploited as current fishing mortality rates are just below the MSY or optimum yield levels.
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    Zooplankton dynamics and ecophysiology in the St. Lucia Estuary, with emphasis on the dominant mysid Mesopodopsis africana.
    (2011) Carrasco, Nicola Kim.; Perissinotto, Renzo.; Pillay, Deena.
    The St. Lucia Estuary, Africa’s largest estuarine lake, is currently experiencing an unprecedented crisis related to freshwater deprivation. This has resulted in a reversed salinity gradient and drastically reduced water levels. These harsh environmental conditions, combined with the limited connection with the open ocean have lead to a loss of biodiversity in the system. The dominant zooplankton taxa include the copepods Pseudodiaptomus stuhlmanni and Acartia natalensis and the mysid Mesopodopsis africana. In March 2007, the closed-mouth state was briefly interrupted by an open-mouth phase, induced by a unique combination of extreme climatic events. With the incoming seawater, previously excluded marine taxa re-entered the system, increasing its diversity significantly. Salinity and temperature have been referred to as driving forces in aquatic ecosystems. The tolerance limits of the key mysid species were, therefore, investigated. Results showed that M. africana has some of the highest recorded upper salinity and temperature tolerances for a mysid. Because of their high biomass, mysids have the potential to affect microalgal standing stocks. Their grazing dynamics (in relation to autotrophic food availability) were investigated in two contrasting environments within the estuary. Ingestion rates and subsequently population grazing impacts on the total microalgal standing stocks were higher at the Mouth than at Charters Creek. This was attributed to the harsh environmental conditions in the latter region. Despite the lower ingestion rates exhibited here, these mysids seem capable of meeting their energetic requirements from a microalgal diet alone. Stable isotope data, though, show that they also utilise a heterotrophic diet. Results of the mixed model SIAR v 4 revealed the contribution of the different carbon sources to the diet of M. africana. Most unique was this mysid’s ability to modify its diet on both short temporal and spatial scales. Resource utilization between the dominant taxa was also compared. All three taxa appear to be opportunistic feeders, capable of incorporating a number of food items in their diet. Between food partitioning, predator avoidance strategies, and their common ability to survive in highly dynamic environments, these species are capable of co-existing, and together contribute to the overall resilience so far shown by the system.
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    An evaluation of coral reef fish communities in South African marine protected areas.
    (2010) Floros, Camilla.; Schleyer, Michael H.; Celliers, Louis.
    Differences in coral reef fish assemblages were investigated on six South African and one southern Mozambican reef under varying management regimes. All of the South African reefs fall within marine protected areas (MPA) but are zoned for differing types and intensities of human activity. Reefs where no human activities are allowed were termed Sanctuaries, while those on which restricted fishing and SCUBA diving are permitted were termed Protected. The reef in southern Mozambique is subjected to unrestricted fishing and SCUBA diving and was consequently termed Open. This study consists of two parts. The first dealt with a community assessment which investigated and provided baseline data on the trophic structure, density, and species diversity of fish assemblages on each of the seven study reefs. The objective was to compare the aforementioned metrics between reefs and thereafter compare them between the different protection zones. The second part of this study focused on assessing the impacts of human activities using 25 fish indicator species. These species were selected a priori based on their ecological importance and sensitivity to human activity (fishing and diving). The selection process was then guided by the results of the community assessment. The objective was to use these species as indicators of recreational diving and fishing pressure in the different protection zones. Density, biomass and size frequency analyses comprised the primary metrics in this assessment. Randomly stratified underwater visual censuses (UVC) were used to collect the fish data and these were conducted on reefs inhabited by a coral community considered to be the core community on South Africa’s reefs in terms of biodiversity and coral cover. The fish community assessment consisted of timed counts in which all non-cryptic fish species were quantified. Indicator species counts employed the point count technique with a radius of 10 m. An average of 11 community counts and an average of 62 point counts were conducted per reef. Various environmental variables and habitat characteritics were recorded during the UVCs. Multivariate analysis of the fish assemblages indicated that the fish community structure differed significantly according to reef protection status. Sanctuary reefs were significantly different from the Open reef in Southern Mozambique. Mean fish abundance was highest on Sanctuary reefs and lowest on the Open reef. In terms of overall species diversity, a total of 284 species belonging to 50 families were recorded, this being comparable to other reefs in the WIO region. Six families contributed more than 50% towards the fish community composition: Labridae, Acanthuridae, Chaetodontidae, Lutjanidae, Pomacentridae and Serranidae. All predator categories were well represented on Sanctuary reefs, while top-level predators were scarce on the High-Diving and the Open reef. Generalised linear model (GLM) regression analysis indicated that human activities were significant variables in accounting for the variance in fish community structure. The total fish abundance and biomass of the selected indicator species were significantly higher in Sanctuary zones and lowest in the Open zone. In addition, Sanctuary zones were characterised by high numbers of large predators, while non-Sanctuary zones were characterised by higher abundances of prey species. Target species were also larger and more abundant in Sanctuary zones. The data revealed that recreational fishing and high diving intensity may be influencing the fish community structure on southern African coral reefs, which was confirmed by GLM regression analysis. Long-term monitoring of these fish communities is recommended to confirm the trends observed in this data set.
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    Comparative life histories and stock assessments of rockcods (family Serranidae) from the east coast of South Africa.
    (2000) Fennessy, Sean Thomas.; Beckley, Lynnath E.; Sadovy, Yvonne.
    The family Serranidae is a diverse group of fishes, of which the genus Epinephelus (rockcods or groupers) is the largest. Serranids are commonly caught in reef fisheries in tropical and warm-temperate latitudes, and are targeted because of their tasty flesh and high value. In South Africa, epinepheline serranids mainly occur in hook and line fisheries in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Mostserranids are caught by the boat-based (skiboat) fishery, and the commonestspecies are the endemic catface rockcod (Epinephelus andersoni), thehalfmoon rockcod (E. rivulatus), the yellowbelly rockcod (E. marginatus) and the endemic white-edge rockcod (E. albomarginatus). Although serranids contribute about ten percent to catches by the commercial and recreational skiboat sectors in KwaZulu-Natal, representing an estimated total catch of around 200 mt per year, little is known about these fishes in South Africa. From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the mean lengths of E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus in the region declined significantly. Over this period, lengths of E. andersoni remained the same, while those of E. rivulatus increased. Lengths of E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus from Mozambique, where fishing effort was low at the time of sampling, were significantly greater than in KwaZulu-Natal. Monthly biological data were mostly collected from commercial skiboat catches on the northern and southern coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Additional data for E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus were also collected irregularly from commercial catches made in Mozambique. Unless the fish had ripe ovaries, all gonads had to be sectioned to establish sex and stage. Histology revealed that all gonads had a female-like appearance, with lamellae and a central lumen. In E. andersoni, there was a complete overlap of male and female length frequencies, and their meanlengths were not significantly different. Some males and inactive bisexuals were both smaller and younger than the female size and age at first maturity. Together with the occurrence of mature bisexual fish (transitionals), these observations indicate that males are derived from immature or mature females, hence this species is a diandric protogynous hermaphrodite. The other three species exhibit typical signs of monandric protogynous hermaphroditism. Males and females had significantly different mean lengths, and age and length frequencies by sex werebimodal. Transitional individuals were recorded in E. rivulatus. E. andersoni and E. rivulatus matured at small sizes and early ages relative to E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus. Ripe ovaries were much larger than ripe testes in all four species. E. andersoni, E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus spawned in spring and summer, while E. rivulatus spawned in winter and spring. There were no indications of spawning in E. andersoni in the southern sampling region, and few ripe individuals of E. albomarginatus were encountered in KwaZulu-Natal samples. Size at maturity of this species was much smaller in Mozambique samples. Large, reproductively inactive individuals of E. andersoni were frequently observed in the spawning season. The lack of reproductive activity of E. andersoni and E. albomarginatus in KwaZulu-Natal may be because this area represents thesouthernmost limit of the distribution of these species. Ageing of the four species was undertaken using sectioned otoliths. Age validation was undertaken by a combination of tetracycline marking in captive fishes, and analysis of the marginal zone in otoliths. All four species are relatively long-lived, although estimates of maximum age may be under-estimated because of long-term harvesting. In all four species, fish from the southern sampling region were larger than fish from the northern region at the same age. Only in the case of E. rivulatus were these significant enough to warrant the fitting of two growth curves to the northern and southern populations. Males in all four species tended to be larger than females at the same age, suggesting that there may be a growth spurt following sex change, or that faster-growing females changed sex. A logistic growth curve was fitted to the age-length data for E. andersoni, while von Bertalanffy curves produced the best fit for the other species. Based on the rates at which L∞ attained in these four species, E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus are slow-growing species, while E. andersoni and, particularly, E. rivulatus arefaster growing. Rates of total mortality and natural mortality were estimated using length-converted catch curves and the Rikhter and Efanov equation, respectively. Stock assessments undertaken by yield per recruit and spawner biomass per recruit analyses indicate that E. andersoni in KwaZulu-Natal is currently optimally exploited, while E. rivulatus is lightly exploited. Both E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus are over-exploited. The potential problems in applying standard per recruit models to species with complex life histories are discussed. Support for the reduced stock status of the latter two species is provided by the observed changes in lengths of these species over a ten-year period, and their relatively small size in KwaZulu-Natal compared to the lightly-fished Mozambique populations. Local fishers in KwaZulu-Natal have also reported declines in sizes and reduced catches of these two species.The life history styles and other features of the four species are compared and discussed with reference to the resilience of these species to harvesting. Two of the species (E. marginatus and E. albomarginatus) are monandric protogynous hermaphrodites, which grow slowly, mature late and attain large sizes. E.andersoni and E. rivulatus grow faster, mature earlier and are smaller species. The normally deleterious effects of fishing on sex-changing species are not manifested in these two species, possibly because E. rivulatus is so small, that males are not selectively removed. In contrast, E. andersoni is a diandric protogynous hermaphrodite, and hence, does not rely on sex-change as a source of males. The current management methods for serranids in KwaZulu-Natal are presented, and suggestions for future approaches are discussed.