Reef fish display station-keeping and ranging behaviour in the Pondoland Marine Protected Area on the east coast of South Africa


This study assessed the role of the Pondoland Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa by evaluating retention versus ‘spillover’ of exploited fishery species that were tagged in a 400 square kilometre no-take zone of the MPA.

From April 2006 to July 2010, 2 124 fish comprising 36 species were tagged in the MPA, with an overall recapture rate of 23%. Findings for four important species (Polysteganus praeorbitalis, Chrysoblephus puniceus, Epinephelus andersoni and Epinephelus marginatus) are presented.

Recapture rates ranged from 8% to 60% and time-at-liberty from 0 to 1 390 d. Individuals of all four species displayed highly localised station-keeping behaviour. For all four species, the 95th percentile of intra-study site movements was <750 m (linear distance) and many recaptures were within 250 m of the release site, showing that some fish spend most of their time in the MPA’s no-take zone.

However, some fish moved beyond the boundary of this zone in a north-easterly direction (range 3 - 1 059 km), where they would be available to the boat-based fishery in KwaZulu-Natal. The combination of resident individuals with some with ranging behaviour suggests that the MPA can provide a conservation role for these species, while exporting some individuals into nearby fisheries.

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