Influence of mouth status on population structure of southern African endemic estuarine-spawning ichthyofauna in a temperate, temporarily open/closed estuary
The effect of mouth status on the population structure of three endemic estuarine-spawning fish species was assessed using seine nets from November 2005 to October 2007 in the temporarily open/closed Mpekweni Estuary, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Collectively, these three species accounted for more than 60% of the total fish abundance within the estuary. Monthly length frequency data were analysed. Two species, Gilchristella aestuaria and Glossogobius callidus, displayed normally distributed populations throughout, with recruitment/abundance peaks between spring and autumn, and were unaffected by open mouth and extended marine connection conditions. Atherina breviceps, however, displayed multiple modal peaks in its combined population distribution, suggesting a greater influence of mouth condition on its population structure. Retrospective analyses of the various cohorts for A. breviceps identified peaks in recruitment/abundance during summer, coinciding with open-mouth conditions and, to a lesser extent, with overwash events. This study highlights the importance of mouth phase, not only on the recruitment and population distribution of marine-spawning species, but also on estuarine-spawning fish in temporarily open/closed estuaries along the South African coastline.
Keywords: Eastern Cape, estuary, fish, length frequency, South Africa