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Report on ORI’s 46th Pondoland MPA fish monitoring field trip.

By: Dr Bruce Mann

The 46th Pondoland Marine Protected Area (MPA) fish monitoring field trip was undertaken from 9-10 April 2019. Since April 2006, the ORI team, led by senior scientist, Dr Bruce Mann, has conducted extensive monitoring in the Pondoland MPA to determine the effectiveness of this MPA. Multiple methods including research fishing, tag-recapture, underwater visual census, baited remote underwater video and monitoring movements of fish tagged with acoustic transmitters are used.

From this research, it is very clear that the Pondoland MPA no-take area 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 greater size in the no-take area than in the adjacent exploited area. Some species such as black musselcracker are known to spawn in this area and the increase in juvenile black musselcracker in the exploited area reported by local ski-boat anglers bears testimony to the potential of the no-take area to seed adjacent areas. Similarly, over time the team has seen a number of adult fish species such as 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.