African Journal of Marine Science

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Vertical migration, catchability and acoustic assessment of semi-pelagic Cape horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus capensis in the southern Benguela

M Barange, SC Pillar, I Huse, L Hutchings


The vertical distribution and migration of the Cape horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus capensis were investigated on the basis of midwater and bottom trawl collections taken over diel cycles at two sites on South Africa's south coast. Attempts were also made to investigate the relationship between bottom trawl catch rates and acoustic abundance estimates. During the first cycle, horse mackerel were dispersed in midwater during the night, and towards sunrise they coalesced into schools and migrated to the seabed where they remained throughout the day. During that cycle, horse mackerel did not appear to feed, despite the prevalence of potential food, mainly Calanus copepods and euphausiid larvae, in the water column. In contrast, during the second cycle, horse mackerel remained near the seabed during the 24-h experiment, but they exhibited a marked feeding periodicity, with most feeding taking place in the late afternoon. They appeared to select for larger copepods in the water column. Several reasons are advanced to explain the difference in the vertical migratory behaviour of horse mackerel between the two sites, on the basis of the vertical distribution of their potential prey. Diel differences in acoustic estimates of horse mackerel abundance were significantly reduced after applying an acoustic deadzone correction factor. Trawl catches, however, could not be reconciled with acoustic estimates during the day, when horse mackerel were too close to the bottom for effective echo-integration.

Keywords: acoustic deadzone; feeding periodicity; horse mackerel; southern Benguela; vertical distribution

African Journal of Marine Science 2005, 27(2): 459–469
AJOL African Journals Online