ORI’s field trip to Mission Rocks

ORI’s field trip to Mission Rocks

The 82nd iSimangaliso surf-zone fish monitoring and tagging field trip was conducted in the area between Mission Rocks and Cape Vidal in iSimangaliso’s Eastern Shores section from 29 July – 3 August 2019. As beach driving is not possible along at least half of this coastline because of rocky outcrops, the team had to walk long distances. As usual for this time of year, the wind howled on three of the four days but fortunately the swell was small at around 1.5 m with sea temperature relatively cold (21 ͦC).

During the trip a total of 269 fish were caught of which 130 were tagged and released, the remainder being small fish or non-tagging species. Only seven fish were recaptured during the trip including five catface rockcod, one yellowbelly rockcod and one speckled snapper.

A total of 133 fish (49.4%) were caught in the two catch and release areas, while 136 fish (50.6%) were caught in the two no-take restricted areas. Each area was about 3 km in length and the recently declared zonation for the iSimangaliso Marine Protected Area was followed. As expected, the catch rate in the restricted area (0.91 fish/angler/hour) was almost identical to that recorded in the two adjacent catch and release areas (0.95 fish/angler/hour), as this whole area is difficult to access and receives relatively little fishing pressure except from avid competitive shore anglers.

A total of 32 fish species were recorded on the trip with 22 species caught in the catch and release areas and 25 species caught in the restricted areas. One new species was recorded on the trip namely a blackedged conger (Conger cinereus).

This brings the total species count for the project to 116 species to date. Species composition was dominated by blacktail (47), grey grunter (36), yellowbelly rockcod (32), catface rockcod (30), eeltail barbel (20), Natal stumpnose (18) and cave bass (15). Interestingly, only six speckled snappers were caught, again highlighting the prominence of the biogeographic break at Cape Vidal and the change in species composition to the south.