Review of research trends

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Period 2000 – 2007

Following the significant political changes in South Africa in 1994, the fisheries sector (including linefish) has undergone a paradigm shift with respect to management structures and the allocation of fishing rights. In 2000 the Minister of Environmneal Afairs and Tourism decalred the linefishery to be in a crisis. In 2001 total allocated effort in the linefishery was reduced from 2600 to 732 permits and a new linefish management protocol was implemented as a means to manage linefish resources on a sustainable basis. The research emphasis during this decade therefore shifted towards studies on long-term sustainable utilization, which requires stock assessment, status reports and resource use-related research, to provide reliable management inputs (Anon 1997).

There has been a steady increase in the annual number of publications throughout the last half-century (Figure 9), with the largest increases being in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The drop in the number of publications between 2000 and the present (Figure 9) is perhaps due to the shorter time period (7 years as opposed to 10 years), but may also partly be attributed to the high number of researchers who have emigrated.

Figure 9: Number of linefish research publications for each decade from 1950 to 2007.

The future of linefish research in South Africa

From a management perspective, there are several directions in which linefish research will be forced.

  • The first of these will be driven by the need to maintain long-term sustainability of the linefishery. This will push the focus in the direction of biological and stock assessment-related research needed for responsible management. Greater emphasis will need to be placed on multi-species stock assessments and the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAF). Furthermore, it is likely that emphasis will also be placed on the evaluation of different fisheries management options. In particular, the role and effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs) around the South African coast as management tools.

  • The second direction of research, suggested by the Fisheries White Paper (Anon 1997), is to combine biological research and socio-economic studies. Such a multidisciplinary approach could facilitate economic development of the linefishery. An important aspect here will be the integration of the subsistence and artisinal/smallscale commercial linefisheries into a formal management framework. The recent publication of “The Draft Policy for the Allocation and Management of Medium-term Subsistence Fishing Rights in South Africa” (Government Gazettte 31707, 12 December 2008) supports this assertion.

  • The third direction of research will be driven by the need to further develop the linefishery. In this regard, the White Paper (Anon 1997) advocated the following research focuses:

  • mariculture and mariculture technology

  • improved fish processing, product quality and marketing

  • problems and opportunities associated with by-catch

  • unutilized or underutilized marine resources in South African and international waters

  • stock and capture enhancement techniques

  • optimising the benefits from ecotourism and other non-consumptive use of marine resources, taking into account possible conflicts with commercial and subsistence use

  • integrated coastal zone management schemes

  • development and improvement of fishing harbours and other required infrastructure facilities

  • effects on living marine resources and their environment and on the fisheries resulting from activities related to the investigation and exploitation of offshore oil and gas resources.

    • Lastly, it is likely that advances in technology and research methodology will shape future research trends. In terms of biological research, it is likely that telemetry methods will popularise the study of linefish movement and migration patterns. Furthermore, the use of new molecular methods may witness an increase in taxonomy and systematic research, as well as population genetic studies to investigate the integrity and delineation of linefish stocks and the feasibility of stock enhancement through mariculture.

Linefish researchers

South African linefish researchers that have published papers over the past 100 years were categorized according to what they are currently doing. These categories were as follows:

  • Active linefish research: - Have published in the past five years and are still actively researching in South Africa.

  • Similar line of work: - Linefish researchers who are now in another line of work such as conservation or consulting, in South Africa.

  • Different work: - Researchers who have changed their line of work to something different but remain in South Africa.

  • Retired or deceased: - The reason for the researchers not being active in research is primarily retirement. This group also includes those researchers who have passed away.

  • Emigrated: - Linefish researchers who have left South Africa. Some may still be involved in research in South Africa to varying degrees. Some of these researchers may be in other lines of work, retired, or deceased.

A total of 128 linefish researchers were identified, of which 42% are still actively involved to some degree in linefish research in South Africa, 18% have changed their line of work to a similar field, such as conservation or consulting, while 10% have changed their line of work to a different field altogether (Figure 10). Nine percent have retired, and a small number in this category, are deceased. A large proportion (21%) of South African linefish researchers have emigrated (Figure 10), and this figure is worsened by the fact that many were amongst the most productive researchers. Of the top 25 most published researchers (as first author), nine (36%) have emigrated. Despite this, it is encouraging to note that there are many young scientists continuing with linefish research in South Africa, and most university departments and research institutions involved in linefish research have registered post-graduate students. This is extremely important for the future of linefish research and management in South Africa.

Figure 10: Percentage breakdown of what has happened to South African linefish researchers.

Trends in South African linefish research revealed a shift in focus from taxonomic and systematic research in the first half of the century, to elasmobranch research in the 1960s, biological research in the 1970’s and management related publications throughout the 1980’s, 90’s and up to 2007. These trends have been moulded by a combination of research need and political pressure, and this is likely to remain the case. Notwithstanding the need to collect basic biological data, catch data, oceanographic data and conduct routine monitoring surveys, the application of new methods that were previously unavailable could witness growth in focus areas such as genetics, telemetry and remote sensing.
The need for linefish research has never been more important. The vulnerable status (Griffiths 2000) and increasing pressure on linefish stocks requires research to ensure that management decisions are well informed. Consequently, provisions for adequate funding must be made, while incentives to retain linefish researcher capacity in South Africa should also be addressed.
This report and its associated electronic resources provide the first bibliography of linefish research undertaken in southern Africa. Although the collation of linefish literature is still ongoing, it is hoped that this contribution will be a useful tool for linefish students, researchers and managers. The challenge is to ensure that the bibliography is continuously updated so that it remains a useful tool in the future. SAEON, in conjunction with the MLRG, undertake to keep the database current by bringing out an updated version every two years.

Literature cited
Ahrens, R. (1964) A preliminary report on the biology of the seventy four Polysteganus undulosus (Regan) in Natal waters. M.Sc. thesis, University of Natal, Durban: 77pp.

Anon (1997) White Paper: Marine fisheries policy for South Africa.

Anon (2000) The economic and sectoral study of the South African fishing industry (Draft profiles): The linefishery. Prepared by Enviro-fish-Africa, (

Baird, D. (1978) Food of the mackerel, Scomber japonicus from western cape waters (Pices: Scombridae) Fishery Bulletin of South Africa 10: 62-68.

Beckley, L.E.; Hulley, P.A. and Skelton, P.A. (2002) Synoptic overview of marine ichthyology in South Africa. Marine and Freshwater Research 53(2): 99-106.

Blaber, S.J.M. (1973) Temperature and salinity tolerance of juvenile Rhabdosargus holubi [Steindachner (Teleostei: Sparidae)]. Journal of Fish Biology 5: 593-598.

Blaber, S.J.M. (1974a) The population structure and growth of juvenile Rhabdosargus holubi (Steindachner) (Teleostei: Sparidae) in a closed estuary. Journal of Fish Biology 6: 455-460.

Blaber, S.J.M. (1974b) Field studies of the diet of Rhabdosargus holubi (Pisces: Teleostei: Sparidae). Journal of Zoology 6: 455-460.

Brouwer, S.L.; Mann, B.Q.; Lamberth, S.J.; Sauer, W.H.H. and Erasmus, C. (1997) A survey of the South African shore-angling fishery. South African Journal of Marine Science 18: 165-177.

D’Aubrey, J.D. (1964a). Preliminary guide to the sharks found off the east coast of South Africa. Oceanographic Research Institute, Investigational Report 8: 95

D’Aubrey, J.D. (1964b). Carchariid shark new to South African waters. South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Oceanographic Research Institute, Investigational Report 9: 16 .

D’Aubrey, J.D. (1966). Zambezi Shark. South African Association for Marine Biological Research Bulletin [Durban] March(6): 34-38.

Davies, D.H. (1963a). Shark attack and its relationship to temperature, beach patronage and the seasonal abundance of dangerous sharks. Oceanographic Research Institute, Investigational Report 6: 43.

Davies, D.H. (1963b). Shark attack on fish boat in South Africa. Oceanographic Research Institute, Investigational Report 1: 2pp.

Davies, D.H. (1964). The Miocene shark fauna of the southern St. Lucia area. South African Association for Marine Biological Research: Investigational Report. (10): 1-16.

Davies, D.H. (1965). Fossil sharks from Zululand. South African Association for Marine Biological Research Bulletin [Durban] (5): 44-50.

Davies, D.H. and Joubert, L.E.S. (1966). Tag evaluation and shark tagging in South African Waters. Oceanographic Research Institute, Investigational Report 12: 36pp.

Davies, D.H. and Joubert, L.E.S. (1967). Tag evaluation and shark tagging in South African waters, 1964-65. Sharks, skates and rays: 111-140.

Fearnhead, E.A. (1973) Physiological adaptations of fish to salinity variations. South African Association for Marine Biological Research 10: 1-35.

Fearnhead, E.A. and Fabian, B.C. (1971) The ultrastructure of the gill of Monodactylus argenteus (a Euryhaline teleost fish) with particular reference to morphological changes associated with changes in salinity. Oceanographic Research Institute, Investigational Report 26: 39pp.

Griffiths, M.H. (2000) Long-term trends in catch and effort of commercial linefish off South Africa's Cape Province: snapshots of the 20th century. South African Journal of Marine Science 22: 81-110.

Hecht, T. (1976) The general biology of six major trawl fish species of the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa, with notes on the demersal fishery, 1967 – 1975. Ph.D. thesis, University of Port Elizabeth, South Africa 353pp.

Hecht, T. (1977) Contributions to the Biology of the Cape Gurnard, Trigla capensis, (Pices: Triglidae) age, growth and reproduction. Zoologica Africana 12(2): 373-382.

Hecht, T. and Baird, D. (1977) Contributions to the biology of the panga, Pterogymnus laniarius (Pisces: Sparidae): age, growth and reproduction. Zoologica Africana 12(2): 363-372.

Joubert, C.S.W. (1979) A study of feeding in some inshore reef fishes on the Natal coast. 4th National Oceanographic Symposium 4: 101.

Mehl, J.A.P. (1973) Ecology, osmoregulation and reproductive biology of the white steenbras, Lithognathus lithognathus (Teleostei: Sparidae). Zoologica Africana 8(2): 157-230.

Penrith, M.J. (1972a) Sex reversal in the sparid fish Chrysoblephus laticeps. Koedoe 15: 135-139.

Penrith, M.J. (1972b) The behaviour of reef-dwelling sparid fishes. Zoologica Africana 7(1): 43-48.

Smith, J.L.B. (1951). A juvenile of the man-eater Carcharodon carcharias (Linn.). Annals and Magazine of Natural History 124: 729-736.

Smith, J.L.B. (1952a) A new hound shark from South Africa, and new records. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 12(5): 223.

Smith, J.L.B. (1952b). Two chondrichthyan fishes new to South Africa. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 12(5): 759-765.

Smith, J.L.B. (1957a). A new shark from South Africa. South African Journal of Science 53(10): 261-264.

Smith, J.L.B. (1957b). Dasyatid rays new to South Africa. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 12: 429.

Smith, J.L.B. (1957c) A preliminary survey of the Scylliogaleid dogfishes of South Africa. South African Journal of Science 53(14): 353-359.

Smith, J.L.B. (1959) Fishes of the Family Lethrinidae from the Western Indian Ocean. Ichthyological Bulletin JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology 17: 285-295.

van der Elst, R.P. (1975) Biology of the elf, Pomatomus saltatrix (Linnaeus) in the coastal waters of Natal. M.Sc. thesis, University of Natal, Durban. 56pp.

van der Elst, R.P. and Garrat, P.A. (1984) Draft management proposals for the Natal deep reef fishery. Oceanographic Research Institute, Unpublished Report 36: 1-31

van Wyk, J.D. (1977) The growth of flathead mullet, Mugil cephalus L., and white steenbras, Lithognathus lithognathus C. & V., in Rondevlei, George. C.P.A. Research Report 1977: 40-44.

Wallace, J.H. (1974) Aspects of the biology and ecology of the estuarine fishes of the east coast of South. Ph.D. thesis, University of Natal, Durban: 174pp.

Wallace, J.H. (1975) Aspects of the biology of Mugil cephalus in a hypersaline estuarine lake on the east coast of South Africa. Aquaculture 5(1): 111.

Wallace, J.H. (1967). The batoid fishes of the east coast of southern Africa. Part I: sawfishes and guitarfishes. Oceanographic Research Institute, Investigative Report 15 1-32.

Wallace, J.H. (1969). Notes on some interesting batoid fishes. South African Association for Marine Biological Research Bulletin [Durban] (7): 26-30.

Whitfield, A.K. (1996) Trends in estuarine fish conservation in South Africa. Ichthos Newsletter(48): 1-2.

Appendix 1

Instructions for the use of the MLRG linefish database.

  1. Copy the database from the cd onto your computer

  2. When opening the database file, the search screen will automatically open.

  3. Perform searches for authors, fish species and publication title by entering a keyword in the appropriate field.

  4. Narrow the search down to specific locations or themes by clicking on the appropriate tabs.

  5. Enter new publications by clicking on the “enter new publication“ tab and filling in the appropriate information.

    1. Publications entered here will not be included in the searches.

    2. Please send these new citations to SAEON (at the address below) to be included in updated versions of the MLRG linefish database which will be brought out every 2 years.

    3. MLRG linefish database


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Appendix 2

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