Baited remote underwater video system (BRUVs) survey of chondrichthyan diversity in False Bay, South Africa
Global declines in chondrichthyan populations necessitate evidence-based planning for their conservation. False Bay, in south-west South Africa, has a high diversity of marine biota, with Atlantic and Indian Ocean influences, but its chondrichthyan fauna is poorly described ecologically. False Bay has a long fishing history and supports various harvesting methods, including shark-directed fishing. This is the first baited remote underwater video system (BRUVs) survey of the relative abundance, diversity and seasonal distribution of chondrichthyans in False Bay. Nineteen species from 11 families were recorded across 185 sites at between 4 and 49 m depth. Diversity was greatest in summer, on reefs and in shallow water. Endemic scyliorhinids, especially Haploblepharus edwardsii, dominated everywhere, in summer and winter. Habitat and season were key predictors of species composition, and a significant interaction between depth and season indicated migration patterns for Mustelus mustelus. By avoiding the selectivity associated with catch records, BRUVs data are superior to fishery-dependent catch-per-unit-effort data to monitor chondrichthyan diversity and abundance. Baited remote underwater video systems access greater depths and more habitats than previously surveyed in False Bay and avoid taxonomic lumping typical of catch records in the region, making them more efficient than other methods of surveying chondrichthyan diversity.
Keywords: ecology, monitoring, non-extractive, relative abundance, seasonal distribution