A map is of the Pondoland Marine Protected Area on the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa showing the four 2-km2 study sites. Picture: Saambr
A map is of the Pondoland Marine Protected Area on the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa showing the four 2-km2 study sites. Picture: Saambr

Pondoland Marine Protected Area giving refuge to many overexploited fish species

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Nov 16, 2021

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DURBAN - The Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) has found that the no-take (restricted) area in the Pondoland Marine Protected Area (PMPA), along the coast of the Eastern Cape, is an important refuge for many overexploited fish species.

The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr) has reported the findings of the ORI which has been monitoring reef fish in the PMPA over a long period.

“From this research, it is very clear that the no-take area in the PMPA is providing an important refuge for many overexploited fish species. Many popular linefish species such as scotsman, slinger, yellowbelly rockcod, black musselcracker, etc. are much more abundant and of a much greater size in the no-take area than in the adjacent exploited area,” the Saambr said.

The association said since April 2006, with a break between 2016 to 2017, their linefish team had conducted extensive monitoring in the PMPA using multiple methods including research fishing, tag-recapture, underwater visual census, baited remote underwater video and monitoring movements of fish and sharks tagged with acoustic transmitters.

“Some species such as black musselcracker are known to spawn in this area and the increase in the number of juvenile black musselcracker in the exploited areas adjacent to the Marine Protected Area (MPA) reported by both shore and ski-boat anglers (and witnessed on our field trips), bears testimony to the potential of the no-take area to seed adjacent areas,” the association said.

“Similarly, over time the team has seen several species of fish, especially scotsmen and slinger leaving the no-take area and moving northwards up the coast presumably to spawn in warmer waters. This provides further evidence of spillover from the MPA, which is helping to enhance fish populations in the exploited areas along our coast and providing direct benefit to fisheries.”

Saambr said over the last few years, they received several reports of boats poaching in the MPA.

“While it was difficult to arrest those perpetrators, vigilance by law abiding ski-boaters on the water and regular communication with the relevant law enforcement officers stationed in the area such as staff from both the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency and Fisheries Compliance Officers from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, is continuing to provide at least some deterrent.”

According to the Saambr, an arrangement with several pilots who undertake routine fights along the Pondoland coast also provide “eyes in the sky” and help to improve surveillance in this regard.

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