African Journal of Marine Science

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Influence of oceanographic fronts and low oxygen on the distribution of ichthyoplankton in the Benguela and southern Angola currents

W Ekau, HM Verheye


The study focuses on ichthyoplankton populations in the southern Angola Current, the Angola-Benguela Front and the coastal upwelling area of the northern and central Benguela Current. The horizontal and vertical distributions of eggs and larvae of sardine Sardinops sagax, anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus and horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus capensis were examined in relation to distribution patterns of temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen. Samples were collected during February–March 2002 using a Bongo net and a multiple opening/closing net in five depth layers (0–30m, 30–60m, 60–100m, 100–140m and 140–220m). Eggs and larvae were restricted mainly to the shelf areas in the Angola-Benguela Front and southern Angola Current waters. Their vertical distributions in the Angola-Benguela Front and northern Benguela upwelling region showed a sharp decline in abundance at about 60m depth. This decline appeared to be correlated to the distribution of dissolved oxygen in the water column. It is hypothesised that low oxygen concentrations have a strong impact on the development and survival of the early life-cycle stages of fish, and that recruitment of sardine and other pelagic species relies more on the upward extension of the oxygen minimum layer than was previously thought.

Keywords: Angola-Benguela Front, Benguela Current, distribution, fish eggs, fish larvae, hypoxia, ichthyoplankton, oxygen minimum layer, recruitment

African Journal of Marine Science 2005, 27(3): 629–639
AJOL African Journals Online