Larval fish variability in response to oceanographic features in a nearshore nursery area



The influence of oceanographic features on ichthyoplankton assemblages in the warm temperate nearshore region of Algoa Bay, South Africa, was assessed. The nearshore ichthyoplankton comprised 88 taxa from 34 families. Samples were collected at six stations between August 2010 and July 2012 using a plankton ring net of 750 mm diameter and 500 µm mesh aperture. The majority of larvae collected were in a preflexion stage, indicating the potential importance of the nearshore for newly hatched larvae. Engraulidae dominated the catch (38·4%), followed by Cynoglossidae (28·1%) and Sparidae (8·4%). Larval fish abundance was highest during austral spring and summer (September to February). Unique patterns in responses of each dominant fish species to oceanographic features in the nearshore indicate the sensitivity of the early developmental stage to environmental variables. Using generalized linear models, ichthyoplankton abundance responded positively to upwelling and when warm water plumes originating from an Agulhas Current meander entered Algoa Bay. Highest abundances of Engraulis encrasicolus and Sardinops sagax were observed during Agulhas Plume intrusions into Algoa Bay. When a mixed and stratified water column persisted in the nearshore region of Algoa Bay, larval fish abundance decreased. The nearshore region of Algoa Bay appears to serve as a favourable environment for the accumulation of ichthyoplankton.