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Monitoring the recovery of a previously exploited surf-zone fish community in the St Lucia Marine Reserve, South Africa, using a no-take sanctuary area as a benchmark

Mann, BQ, Winker, H, Maggs, JQ, Porter, SN
African journal of marine science 2016 v.38 no.3 pp. 423-441
biomass, coasts, conservation areas, fish, fish communities, habitats, models, monitoring, sport fishing, South Africa
Limiting accessibility to a fishing area can reduce fishing effort effectively and may therefore promote local recovery of depleted stocks. In January 2002, beach driving was banned in South Africa, thereby reducing angler access to large areas of the coastline, particularly in less-developed areas. In November 2001 a project had been established in the St Lucia Marine Reserve, on the east coast of South Africa, to compare surf-zone fish populations inside a no-take sanctuary zone with those in an adjacent exploited area. Subsequent to the ban, the aim of the project was adapted such that surf-zone fish populations were monitored for potential recovery in what had been the exploited area, located to the north of Cape Vidal, which anglers could no longer access easily, because of the prohibition on beach driving. Standardised research fishing was conducted at two sites in the previously exploited area and two sites in the no-take sanctuary. Conventional stock-status indicators showed evidence of recovery in the four most common species caught in the previously exploited area, in terms of both abundance and biomass. Generalised additive mixed models were used to account for the influence of targeting specific species; however, subtle differences in habitat between the sampling sites, improved angling skill over time, variability in recruitment, and differential species-specific responses complicated interpretation of results. The implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the future monitoring and management of marine protected areas both within the St Lucia Marine Reserve and farther afield.