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TitleThe conservation and management of freshwater fishes in the Greater Addo Elephant National Park
AuthorTraas, G. R. L.
SubjectSH Aquaculture. Fisheries. Angling
AbstractFreshwater fish are the most imperilled vertebrate group with a high projected extinction rate. In general, the world’s freshwater ichthyofauna is in a poor state and is threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, the effects of alien species, damming, water extraction and overfishing. Within South Africa, legislation supporting the conservation of aquatic habitats and its associated fauna is strong, but there is a lack of capacity and poor co-ordination between agencies responsible for the conservation and management. The Greater Addo Elephant National Park (GAENP) includes the upper catchments of five of the Sundays River tributaries. Since the optimal method of conserving freshwater aquatic biota is to conserve the headwaters of either the river or its tributaries, there is an opportunity to conserve the native ichthyofauna of the Sundays River system. The principal objective of this thesis was, therefore, to provide information pertinent to the conservation and management of the fishes in the Sundays River system. Sixteen species of freshwater and estuarine fish were sampled, of which eight were alien. Species composition in each of the rivers, with the exception of the Kabouga River, had changed significantly from previous studies. The distribution ranges of several indigenous species had reduced, while those of some alien species was increased. Two species not previously recorded, Labeo capensis and Gambusia affinis, were sampled. Alien species were sampled from all the tributaries. Diversity indices and community assemblage models were identified as approaches for monitoring the ichthyofauna in this species depauperate system. Diversity indices were not recommended for use as a monitoring tool, as they provided insufficient detail on community composition and structure. A modified depletion estimator was applied to multiple pass electrofishing data to determine the effects of various physico-chemical variables on the absolute abundance of Pseudobarbus afer, an endangered species. Pseudobarbus afer density was found to be positively correlated to the presence of boulders. Where P. afer were present, they were abundant. Of the total sampled catch, 21.8% was comprised of alien fishes. Clarias gariepinus was the most successful invader having penetrated all but one of the tributaries. Micropterus salmoides changed the species composition of the Wit River significantly through predation, and is potentially the most dangerous of the alien species in the Sundays River system, capable of extirpating a population of P. afer in as little as three days. Only one man-made barrier to the upstream migration of alien fishes was present on the tributaries, and several addition barriers are required to safeguard the populations of indigenous fish in the headwaters of these tributaries. Several management and conservation tools are presented and discussed, including river rehabilitation, translocation, eradication of alien species, erection of barrier weirs and captive breeding programmes. Public awareness and education is stressed because without support from the communities surrounding the GAENP, management plans for conservation of the indigenous ichthyofauna will, in all likelihood, fail.
Identifier Traas, G. R. L. (2009) The conservation and management of freshwater fishes in the Greater Addo Elephant National Park. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.