African Journal of Marine Science

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Currents along the Tsitsikamma coast, South Africa, and potential transport of squid paralarvae and ichthyoplankton

MJ Roberts, M van den Berg


In July 1998, a bottom-mounted Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler was deployed at 36m depth in the centre of the Tsitsikamma National Park on the eastern Agulhas Bank, South Africa. The purpose was to investigate transport of chokka squid Loligo vulgaris reynaudii paralarvae hatched on the inshore spawning grounds (<60m) and ichthyoplankton spawned within the park. Analysis of the first 12 months of data (July 1998–June 1999) shows that surface flow was mainly eastward (alongshore), with a maximum velocity (ucomponent) of +115cm s–1 and an average of +24cm s–1. Generally, velocity decreased with depth, with a maximum bottom velocity (u-component) of +65cm s–1 and an average of +10cm s–1. Data from a nearby thermistor array show that the water column was usually isothermal during winter (July–September), with bottom flow in the same direction as the surface layer. In summer (December–March), vertical stratification was most intense, and surface and bottom flows differed in velocity and direction. Potential net monthly displacements calculated for three depths (5m, 23m and 31m) indicate that passive, neutrally buoyant biological material (e.g. squid paralarvae, fish eggs and larvae) would likely be transported eastwards in the surface layer for eight of the 12 months, and would generally exceed distances of 220km month–1. Displacement in the bottom layer was more evenly distributed between east and west, with net monthly (potential) transport typically 70–100km, but reaching a maximum of 200km. Wind-driven coastal upwelling, prevalent during the summer, causes the surface layer of the coastal counter-current to flow offshore for several days, resulting in potential displacement distances of 40km from the coast. These results suggest that squid paralarvae hatched on the inshore spawning grounds are not generally transported towards the ‘cold ridge', a prominent semi-permanent oceanographic feature of cold, nutrient-rich upwelled water, where food is abundant, and that fish larvae, whether from the surface or bottom layer, are exported beyond the boundaries of the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Keywords: Agulhas Bank; currents; paralarvae; South Africa; squid spawning grounds

African Journal of Marine Science 2005, 27(2): 375–388
AJOL African Journals Online