No-take estuarine-protected areas: The missing armour for the conservation of fishes

Alan K. Whitfield, Colin G. Attwood, Paul D. Cowley, Stephen J. Lamberth, Bruce Q. Mann
Koedoe | Vol 62, No 1 | a1648 | DOI: | © 2020 Alan Whitfield | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 July 2020 | Published: 05 November 2020

About the author(s)

Alan K. Whitfield, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Makhanda, South Africa
Colin G. Attwood, Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
Paul D. Cowley, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Makhanda, South Africa
Stephen J. Lamberth, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Cape Town, South Africa
Bruce Q. Mann, Oceanographic Research Institute, Durban, South Africa


The focus of conservation attention over the past few decades has been on marine-protected areas (MPAs) providing protection for heavily exploited marine fish species. Although some estuaries are included in most large MPAs, specific attention on the protection needs of fish species in estuaries has been lacking. Furthermore, many of the estuaries located within conservation areas are open to angling activities and this has been exacerbated by the proliferation of illegal gillnet fishing in many systems during recent decades. Three fish species, the dusky kob Argyrosomus japonicus, white steenbras Lithognathus lithognathus and spotted grunter Pomadasys commersonnii – are used as examples of estuary-dependent taxa whose populations have been decimated by fishing over-exploitation, as well as habitat degradation caused by various human activities. By having complete protection for vulnerable fish species in certain estuaries, the potential benefits of increased catches for both subsistence and recreational anglers along the entire South African coastline could be substantial. If such protection is not offered to these species, then the downward spiral in fish catches will continue, to the ultimate detriment of both the people who currently use these protein resources for food security and those who are part of the economically important recreational fishing industry.

Conservation implications: Based on collapsing populations of targeted fishery species in estuaries, there is an urgent need to implement no-take estuarine-protected areas in each of the biogeographic regions along the South African coast.


estuarine fishes; threatened species; protected areas; conservation; fisheries management; environmental management


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