Dark times for dageraad Chrysoblephus cristiceps: evidence for stock collapse
The declaration of a state of emergency in the South African linefishery in 2000 has had a positive impact on a few overexploited endemic seabreams (Family Sparidae). However, the population of the reef-dwelling dageraad Chrysoblephus cristiceps has been unresponsive to progressively stricter management regulations. After decades of unsustainable fishing mortality the species is in a critical state. In this paper, a method based on standardised probability of capture is used to develop an index of relative abundance for rare species, such as dageraad, which is more robust to changes in output control regulations than conventional methods. The results show a severe decline in dageraad capture probability in the south-west region of South Africa, from 8% in 1985 to <0.1% in 2011. The east region experienced a more rapid decline, from 24% in 1999 to <0.1% in 2011. A spatial comparison of the distribution of historical and recent dageraad probability of capture along the South African coastline indicates a range contraction commonly associated with the collapse of a population. The once-widespread species is now largely limited to a few locations in the Eastern Cape province and dageraad is mostly absent across its former western distribution. Although the historical decline has commonly been attributed to commercial overexploitation, the recreational sector had an estimated 3–5 times greater impact on the dageraad population than the commercial sector in recent years. Given that previous management regulations have been unsuccessful in arresting the decline of dageraad populations, assertive management is necessary to ensure the species’ sustainability. Rehabilitation of dageraad stocks will require a further decrease in fishing mortality, in conjunction with maintaining an appropriate marine protected area (MPA) network.
Keywords: CPUE, fisheries management, linefish, marine protected area, South Africa, Sparidae, stock assessment