Long-term trends in the recreational shore-fishery for elf Pomatomus saltatrix (Pomatomidae) along the KwaZulu-Natal coast, South Africa
AbstractElf Pomatomus saltatrix account for between 28% and 80% of the annually recorded recreational shore-angling catch in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and have been subjected to various management regimes over the past 33 years. Management of the elf fishery was amended in 2005 to reduce fishing mortality and enhance egg production, following an assessment in 1997, which considered the elf stock to be overexploited and in need of rebuilding. A compromise was reached whereby the bag limit was reduced from five to four elf per angler per day, but the closed season was shortened, allowing an extra month of fishing for elf. A total of 33 years of recreational elf catches recorded on the National Marine Linefish System was investigated for any long-term trends and how they related to management of this species. Over 3 million angler-outings from the recreational shore-fishery in KZN were analysed, including more than 1.5 million elf in the catch. Despite the fast growth of elf and the latest management intervention seven years ago, which was based on a rigorous investigation of life-history parameters, the present study showed no evidence of an improvement in catch rate. It could not be determined whether this was due to a reduction in the bag limit, which would naturally reduce catch rates or whether other factors, including the shortened closed season, had been detrimental to elf stocks. Some shortfalls in the management of elf are discussed and possible reasons for the great variability in catches, which complicated the assessment of trends, are explored.
Keywords: catch per unit effort, CPUE, National Marine Linefish System, NMLS, recreational shore-fishing, shad
African Journal of Marine Science 2012, 34(3): 401–410