MEPS 569:187-203 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12089

Small pelagic fish responses to fine-scale oceanographic conditions: implications for the endangered African penguin

Alistair M. McInnes1,*, Peter G. Ryan1, Miguel Lacerda2, Julie Deshayes3, Wayne S. Goschen4,5, Lorien Pichegru1,5,6

1DST-NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
2Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
3Sorbonne Universit├ęs (UPMC Universit├ęs Paris 06) CNRS-IRD-MNHN, Laboratoire LOCEAN/IPSL, Paris 75005, France
4South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Elwandle Coastal Node, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
5Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Summerstrand 6031, South Africa
6Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Summerstrand 6031, South Africa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Small pelagic fish play a significant role in regulating the foraging activities and population trends of marine top predators in upwelling ecosystems, yet there is little information on oceanographic drivers of fish assemblages at temporal and spatial scales relevant to their predators. The survival of the Endangered African penguin Spheniscus demersus is closely linked to the availability of pelagic fish prey. This study assesses the influence of oceanographic variables on the spatio-temporal dynamics of pelagic fish in Algoa Bay, South Africa, where half of the world population of African penguins breed on 2 islands, St Croix and Bird. Using small-scale acoustic surveys and an array of underwater oceanographic data recorders spread across the bay during 3 yr, we reveal the complex and variable nature of this system, with fish responding differently to physical processes around each island. Chlorophyll a concentrations were good predictors of relative fish abundance around Bird Island but had little influence around St Croix Island, possibly due to the masking effect of purse-seine fishing around this site. The horizontal distribution of fish schools around Bird Island was more aggregated under upwelling conditions (cooler sea surface temperatures) and the vertical distribution of fish around both islands was strongly influenced by stratification and mean temperatures. Mechanistic drivers of upwelling included northeasterly winds and offshore Natal pulses, both of which are predicted to have an increasingly more significant effect on the suitability of habitat for pelagic fish and associated predators under the influences of climate change and industrial fishing.


KEY WORDS: Marine top predators · Schooling fish · Oceanographic processes · Acoustic surveys · Spheniscus demersus · Benguela upwelling · Predator-prey interaction · Algoa Bay


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Cite this article as: McInnes AM, Ryan PG, Lacerda M, Deshayes J, Goschen WS, Pichegru L (2017) Small pelagic fish responses to fine-scale oceanographic conditions: implications for the endangered African penguin. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 569:187-203. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12089

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