Conservation Benefits of a Marine Protected Area on South African Chondrichthyans
33 Pages Posted: 21 May 2022
Chondrichthyans are threatened worldwide due to their life-history traits combined with a plethora of anthropogenic impacts that are causing populations to collapse. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a conservation option, but their efficacy for chondrichthyans is still unclear. Conservation efforts might be challenging especially in developing countries, due to a lack of resources and monitoring and limited data and stakeholder support. Here we used Baited Remote Underwater Stereo-Video systems (stereo-BRUVs) inside and outside a small partially protected MPA (Robberg MPA, Western Cape, South Africa) to assess the relative abundance, species richness and size of cartilaginous fishes’ assemblages in one of the world’s chondrichthyan biodiversity and endemism hotspots, and to investigate the potential benefits derived from the presence of a marine reserve. Overall, 19 chondrichthyan species in 11 different families were observed. Chondrichthyans were observed in 78.5% of the sites and, of these, 89.7% of the MPA sites showed at least one chondrichthyan, while only in the 67.5% of surrounding exploited sites a cartilaginous fish was sighted. The presence of the MPA had a significant effect on the relative abundance of batoids, threatened species and local endemics, with more observations inside the MPA than outside, indicating the potential benefit of marine reserves on species that are more vulnerable to fishing pressure. Relative abundance was generally higher inside the bay than in the exposed area, and both relative abundance and species richness decreased significantly with depth. The analysis of the body length showed that the 35.5% of species had an average body length below maturity length, indicating that the area might be used as nursery ground for different species. This study provides evidence that MPAs, even though small and partially protected, can provide benefits for chondrichthyans, specifically to threatened species, endemic species and lesser-known species. Importantly, different environmental parameters must be considered to maximize the benefits an MPA can provide.
Keywords: Marine Protected Areas, baited remote underwater video, chondrichthyans, Conservation, South Africa
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation