Pilchard distribution in South African waters, 1983–1985

M. J. Armstrong , A. Berruti & J. Colclough (1987) Pilchard distribution in South African waters, 1983–1985, South African Journal of Marine Science, 5:1, 871-886,


Seasonal movements of South African pilchard Sardinops ocellatus in the relatively abundant 1982/83 year-class are inferred by means of length frequency information from predator diet analyses and from commercial and research catches in various localities. Pilchard of approximately one year of age were most abundant in the vicinity of Algoa Bay on the south-eastern Cape coast in the summer of 1983/84. The pilchard length frequency distribution in gannet diet and research midwater trawl samples in this area provided a clear linkage, through the known juvenile growth rate, with fish of an average 6 months of age, which were abundant off the West Coast during May 1983. Pilchard in this year-class were subsequently found to be widely distributed over the Agulhas Bank, with a tendency for them to inhabit deeper water towards the shelf edge as they reached the age of first spawning (about 18 months). During 1985, a noticeable increase in the abundance of large, two-year-old and older pilchard in the diet of West Coast gannets and in West Coast commercial catches indicated a movement of 1982/83 year-class fish into that area. The changes in distribution of pilchard in this year-class are discussed in relation to seasonal differences in the marine environment off South Africa.
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