Predatory pelagic fishes of the Bijagós Archipelago (Guinea-Bissau) show high overlap in diets dominated by sardinella
Knowledge of trophic interactions between the key components of marine communities is required to understand food-web dynamics and develop ecosystem-based management approaches. In West Africa, where fisheries sustain the livelihoods of a significant part of the human population, this understanding is even more urgent, especially in the face of rapidly expanding fisheries and some stock collapses in the region. We studied the feeding ecology of the Crevalle jack Caranx hippos, West African Spanish mackerel Scomberomorus tritor and Guinean barracuda Sphyraena afra in the Bijagós Archipelago, Guinea-Bissau. These are the most abundant pelagic predatory teleost fishes in the area, but little is known about their ecology despite being species with commercial and recreational value, and they likely also play an important role in various African coastal ecosystems. Our findings show a high degree of dietary overlap among these three predator species, despite some degree of segregation by prey size and type. All three predators depend on Sardinella maderensis as the most important prey, which together with other members of the Clupeidae represented 47–96% of the ingested prey items. There was little difference in the diets of the predators between the dry and rainy seasons. These novel findings suggest a ‘wasp-waist’-structured ecosystem in the Bijagós Archipelago in which S. maderensis is the central small-sized pelagic fish species, and stress the need for an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management in the region, with precautionary measures taken to avoid the overexploitation of clupeids.
Keywords: Caranx hippos, clupeids, predator–prey, Sardinella maderensis, Scomberomorus tritor, Sphyraena afra, trophic interactions, wasp-waist ecosystem, West Africa