Biology and stock assessment of the coastal fish, Sarpa Salpa (Sparidae), off the KwaZulu-Natal coast, South Africa.
Van Der Walt, Bryan Anthony.
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This study investigated aspects of the biology of Sarpa salpa, such as reproduction, age and growth, and mortality, which are necessary for an assessment of the status of this species off the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Coast. The importance of S. salpa to the shore-based fishery in KZN was evaluated using Natal Parks Board shore patrol data. These data were validated by analysing preliminary results of an independent shore-angling survey along the KZN Coast. Despite differences in the catch composition and catch rates between the two analyses, both data sources highlighted the importance of S. salpa to the shore-based fishery in KZN. Shore-based catches were markedly seasonal coinciding with the breeding season of the species. The species in KZN is targeted primarily to provide a supplementary source of animal protein. An investigation of the reproductive biology of S. salpa indicated a protracted spawning period for the species. Size at 50 percent maturity for combined sexes was attained at 145 mm fork length. The sex ratio in shore-based catches was 1:1.6 in favour of males. A frequency distribution by size indicated that males dominated the smaller size classes while females dominated the larger size classes. Detailed histological examination of gonadal development showed that S. salpa has the potential for protandrous sex change. An age and growth study based on the examination of whole otoliths indicated that S. salpa was relatively fast-growing and a maximum age of six years was recorded for the species. One opaque band was laid down per year. This was validated by marginal increment analysis and by an oxytetracycline labelling experiment using captive fish. Growth in S. salpa was described by a Von Bertalanffy growth function: Lage (mm FL) = 224mm(1 -e-o.55 year-1(age+o.51years)) The natural mortality rate (M = 0.6 year-1) was derived using Pauly's equation and the current fishing mortality (F) rate was estimated at 0.8 year-1. The current status of S. salpa in the shore-based fishery was assessed by determining the effects of F and age-at-capture on the yield- and spawner biomass-per-recruit. Current levels of fishing pressure on S. salpa appeared to be appropriate for utilisation of the stock off the KZN South Coast. In terms of management, S. salpa appears to be in no need of any restrictive measures at present.