Residency and small-scale movement behaviour of three endemic sparid fishes in their shallow rocky subtidal nursery habitat, South Africa
The residency and small-scale movements of early juveniles (<175 mm fork length) of three sparid fish species were examined in the shallow subtidal zone along a 500 m stretch of rocky coastline near Schoenmakerskop (Eastern Cape Province, South Africa). A total of 12 blacktail (Diplodus capensis), 12 zebra (Diplodus hottentotus) and six white musselcracker (Sparodon durbanensis) were tagged using visible implant elastomer (VIE) tags. Underwater observations in four shallow rocky subtidal gullies and adjacent areas were made using snorkelling gear on a total of 37 days spanning 13 field trips over spring low tide periods between January and August 2006. The VIE tagging method was well suited to individually tag small juvenile fish with minimum disturbance. In general, the degree of residency of juveniles in the shallow rocky subtidal zone was species specific and dependent on the size of individuals. Juvenile zebra displayed the highest degree of residency followed by white musselcracker and blacktail, with re-sightings recorded on 53%, 40% and 10% of observation days, respectively. The high degree of residency by early juvenile sparids renders them vulnerable to localized coastal perturbations and climate change.
Key words: juvenile fish, movement behaviour, visible implant elastomer tags, rocky coastline, shallow subtidal, Sparidae, South Africa.