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Marine Life

LICENSES 
Fishing, spearfishing, boating and crayfish licenses (amongst others) are available from any Post Office in South Africa.

CLOSED SEASONS 
Elf/Shad: 1 September -30 November

Galjoen: 15 October -last day February
Crayfish: 1 November - end February (bag limit is 8 crayfish per person/license.)

East Coast Rock Lobster (Crayfish) Regulations
1. Closed season: 1 November to the last day of February of the following year, both dates inclusive.

2. Minimum size: 65 mm - measured in a straight line from the point where the tail meets the body to the tip of the spine between the rock lobster’s eyes.

3. No person may collect more than eight east coast rock lobster per day.

4. No person may be in possession of or transport more than eight east coast rock lobster at any time.

5. No person shall engage in fishing, collecting or disturbing east coast rock lobster with the use of a vessel.

6. No person shall engage in fishing, collecting or disturbing any East Coast rock lobster with a trap other than:

6.1 a flat circular trap with no sides and which diameter does not exceed 30 cm;

or

6.2 by means of baited hooks.

For more information phone: (021) 402-3911 or consult the Amended Regulations (R24 of 14 January 2000) in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998

MARINE RECREATIONAL FISHING

GENERAL REGULATIONS
1. No person shall, except on authority of a recreational permit obtainable from the South African Postal Services, engage in recreational fishing.

2. No person shall sell, barter or trade any fish caught through recreational fishing.

3. No recreational fishing permit is transferable from one person to another.

4. A persona of a recreational permit shall not use any artificial breathing apparatus, other that a snorkel.

5. No person shall, engage in fishing, collect or disturb any fish by means of a gaff, club, flail, stick, stone or similar implement.

6. No person shall engage in fishing, except for octopus, cuttlefish or squid, by the jerking of a hook or jig in the sea jigging), with the intention of impaling the fish thereon.

7. No person shall engage in the fishing, collection or disturbing of any fish with a speargun in a tidal river or tidal lagoon.

8. No person shall use any cast net for fishing from sunset to sunrise.

9. No person shall disturb, catch, kill or be in possession of any dolphin or any part or product derived thereof.

10. No person shall, except with the authority of a permit, disturb, catch or kill any whales at any time, or approach closer than 300 m to a whale.

11. No person shall, except with the authority of a permit, attract by using bait or any other means, any great white shark, or catch, attempt to catch, kill or attempt to kill any great white shark, or purchase, sell or offer for sale any part or product derived thereof.

12. No person shall, except with the authority of a permit, damage, uproot, collect or land or attempt to damage, uproot, collect or land any live or dead coral.

13. No person shall, except with the authority of a permit, engage in fishing, collecting or disturbing any live or empty pansy shell.

14. No person shall, except with the authority of a permit, engage in fishing, collecting or removing any aquatic plants, except for own use and in quantities not exceeding 10 kg aquatic plants, however, 1 kg dead shells or 50 kg shellgrit per day is permitted without a permit.

15. No person shall, except with the authority of a permit, damage, pick, uproot, collect or land or attempt to damage, pick, uproot, collect or land any live or dead sea fans or sea pens.

16. No person shall, without a permit issued by the Director-General, culture any marine organisms.

17. No person shall, except with the authority of a permit, catch any fish or collect any aquatic plants for commercial purposes.

For more information phone: (021) 402-3911 or consult the Amended Regulations (R24 of 14 January 2000) in terms of the Marine Living Resources Act, 1998

Baby Southern Right whale

Every year southern right whales migrate from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer climates, reaching South Africa in June. The coastal waters teem with the giant animals, mating, calving and rearing their young - and giving whale-watchers spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatics.

The Southern Right gets its name from the simple fact it was once regarded it as the "right" whale to hunt - the animals are slow-moving, rich in oil and baleen, float when killed and provide an enormous yield. This "rightness" brought the animals to the brink of extinction in the early 20th century, as whalers killed an estimated 20 000 of the animals. Protected in South African waters since 1935, their numbers have slowly crept back to a world population of some 4 000, most of which visit the country's coastline every year. Playing, courting and nursing. 

Weighing in at about 60 tons and estimated to live as long as 100 years, the southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) has became a major tourist attraction up and down the South African coast. Their breeding ground is the sheltered bays of the Cape coast, with the majestic animals spending up to five months a year here. They pass their time playing, courting, and nursing their newborn calves, often just metres from the shore, providing spectacular land-based viewing

Southern rights are massive and rotund animals, rounder and heavier than the humpback or Bryde's whale and smaller only than the blue whale. They can be identified by their total lack of a dorsal fin, stubby square-ended flippers, and by callosities, unusual wart-like growths, on the head. Mostly a dark bluish-black colour, about 4% of calves are born entirely white. This is a sex-linked genetic trait - all white calves are male - and the colour darkens to the usual black as the animal matures.

The breeding season is during spring, from July to October. Females calve every three years, with a year of gestation, a year raising the calf and a year of rest. The cow needs the rest year to recover from the tremendous physical strain of gestating a four-ton calf in just 12 months, and suckling it for another six months. A calf can drink up to 200 litres of milk and grow by as much as three centimetres every day. 

Willing performers Intelligent, inquisitive and sensitive animals, southern rights form small social groups of about six related animals. In the breeding season cow and calf pairs can often been seen cavorting in the water together. The way mother and child breach alternately, one after the other, suggests that this and other behaviour may be taught. Southern rights are willing performers for onlookers, often breaching several times in succession to hit the water again with a cannon-blast sound.

Another characteristic behaviour, unique to the right whale, is resting head-down in the water for several minutes with the flukes held aloft, as if hoping to be pushed along by the wind - variously called "sailing" or "head-standing".

Then there's flipper slapping, lobtailing - slapping the tail on the water - and spyhopping, raising the massive head to see above the surface. Their huge curiosity often prompts them to approach boats to investigate - a trait with tragic consequences in the days of the whalers.

The best time for watching the southern right whale in South African waters is from June to November along the Cape south coast, and Wild Coas.

Peak calving season is July and August, but whales can still be seen through September and October. Planning a whale-watching route South African whale-watching territory runs from Doringbaai, south of Cape Town, all the way east along the coast as far as Durban. They can be viewed from cliffs and beaches, with boat operators offering trips out to sea for an even closer encounter.

The town of Hermanus in Walker Bay on the Cape south coast offers possibly the best land-based whale watching in the world. The animals can be clearly seen from a scenic cliff-top walk, and the town holds an whale-watching festival every September. Hermanus claims to be the whale capital of the world, but so does Plettenberg Bay, further east along the coast. Southern rights visit the bay from about June to November, and migratory humpback whales can also be briefly seen from May and June and then, on their return trip, from about November to January. 

The Garden Route from Stilbaai through Mossel Bay and on to George, Wilderness, Knysna and Tsitsikamma is a magnificent stretch of coastline hosting southern rights in their season, humpbacks between May and December, Bryde's whales all year round - and, occasionally, killer whales.

From Cape St Francis to the rugged Wild Coast are numerous vantage points to see humpbacks, Bryde's, minke and killer whales and quite often southern rights, especially in Algoa Bay, while sperm and beaked whales approach close to shore off Port St Johns. Humpback whales are spotted almost daily during their northward migration from May to July and again on their return journey from November to January, occasionally being spotted as far north as Cape Vidal.

On the Cape west coast, excellent sightings of southern rights can be enjoyed all the way from Strandfontein, to Lambert's Bay, Elands Bay, St Helena, Saldanha and Ysterfontein, just north of Cape Town. Whales can also be seen all around the Cape Peninsula and along the south coast to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Agulhas is particularly rewarding, with great views of southern right cows and calves at play - up to 50 pairs at a time. Whale watching can also be enjoyed from picturesque town of Arniston along the coast to Cape Infanta. 

SouthAfrica.info reporter, with material sourced from Centre for Dolphin StudiesSouth African Tourism and Hermanus Tourism

Source: SouthAfrica.info

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Male bottlenose dolphins live an average of between 40 and 45 years, while females can live over 50 years. Females reproduce every 3 to 6 years after they reach sexual maturity between the ages of 5 and 10.

The male bottlenose dolphin does not reach sexual maturity until between 8 and 13 years old, and he does not actually start reproducing until around 20 years old. Females lactate for around 18 months after birth, which imposes a significant metabolic burden on them, and they are the primary caregivers of their young. All the females in a group of bottlenose dolphins work together to raise their offspring.

The bottlenose dolphin is one of the world’s best known dolphins. There are two separate species, the Common Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates, and the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops aduncus. Both species live in warm and temperate oceans worldwide. Tursiops truncates is further divided into two sub-species, Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus gillii, and the Black Sea Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus ponticus. Large shark species prey on the bottlenose dolphin, especially the young. However, the dolphin has developed a mobbing behavior to protect the group which can be fatal to the shark. Even a single adult dolphin is dangerous prey for a shark of similar size.

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) range in length from 8 to 12 feet and can weigh as much as 1400 pounds (635Kg). The males are larger than the females. The size of a dolphin varies with habitat. Those dolphins in warmer, shallower waters tend to have a smaller body than their cousins in cooler waters. They have a high, curved dorsal fin in the middle of the back. They have broad notched flukes, and pointed flippers. Bottlenose dolphin have between 18 and 26 pairs of sharp conical teeth on each side of the jaw. Bottlenose dolphins capture prey, sometimes as a group effort, and feed on fish, squid, and crustaceans. When a shoal of fish is found dolphins work as a team to keep the fish close together and maximize the harvest. They also search for fish alone, often bottom dwelling species. An adult may eat as much as 30 pounds each day.

Bottlenose dolphins are found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters. They are frequently seen in harbors, bays, lagoons, estuaries, and river mouths. Bottlenose dolphins live in relatively open societies. Mother and calf will bond strongly, but otherwise the dolphins will be seen with a variety of different other individuals in groups ranging from 20 in the nearshore to several hundred in the open ocean.

Dolphins are known for friendly character and curiosity towards other species and humans in the ocean, and often investigate divers. Dolphins will raise injured dolphins to the surface to help them and occasionally have rescued divers the same way. There have been reports of groups of dolphin surrounding swimmers to protect them from sharks as they swam to the shore. They have also been documented leading beached whales to deeper water channels.

Bottlenose dolphins have a gestation of 12 months and calve year round. Males reach sexual maturity at about 10 years. Females reach sexual maturity at about 5-10 years and produce one offspring every two to three years. The mother nurses the calf for 12-18 months and the calf will stay with the mother for up to 6 years learning how to feed. Sometimes, the mother will get help from another female, referred to as an auntie, in caring for offspring. Female bottlenose dolphins live for about 40 years, the males live for about 30 years. During the mating season male dolphins compete very vigorously with each other through displays of toughness and size with a series of acts such as head butting.

Dolphins employ echolocation to search for food. Echolocation is similar to sonar. They locate objects by producing sounds and listening for the echo. A pulse of clicking sounds is emitted in a focused beam in front of the dolphin. To hear the returning echo they have two small ear openings behind the eyes but most sound waves are transmitted to the inner ear through the lower jaw. As the object of interest is approached the echo grows louder, and the dolphins adjust by decreasing the intensity of the emitted sounds. Bottlenose dolphin have good eyesight, and their eyes are equipped with a reflecting membrane which helps them see in low light. They have a poor sense of smell.

Dolphins communicate with one another through squeaks, whistles, and body language. Examples of body language include leaping out of the water, snapping jaws, slapping tails on the surface of the water, and butting heads with one another. These behaviors help keep track of other dolphins in the group and alert other dolphins to possible dangers and nearby food. They produce the sounds from air sacs near their blow hole and each dolphin has a unique signature whistle, as well as other communication sounds that are common to all in the group.

The Bottlenose dolphin has a single blowhole on the dorsal surface of the head. The blowhole can be closed by use of a muscular flap. A dolphin is able to exchange 80% or more of its lung air with each breath, and typically rises to the surface to breathe through its blowhole two times a minute. However, they can, if necessary, remain underwater for up to 20 minutes. Dolphins sleep for approximately 8 hours in every 24, in periods of from several minutes to several hours. During the sleeping cycle dolphins remain near the surface swimming slowly, occasionally closing one eye, and one brain hemisphere remains active while the other hemisphere shuts down.

Sources: SeaPics.Com / Reference.Com

IDENTIFICATION
Rock lobsters or spiny lobsters are popularly known as crayfish, but should be distinguished from the freshwater crayfish, which are considerably less popular in restaurants! Rock lobsters like crabs, belong to the crustacean family and have a horny exoskeleton (carapace) but they have a long tail ending with a tail fan. The East Coast rock lobster is brick red with orange spines and blue-green markings on the head.

There are two horns next to their eyes but unlike other species, there are no spines between these horns. The rock lobsters that may be sold in restaurants are either West Coast rock lobsters (Panulirus lalandii) or deep-water rock lobsters (Palinurus spp.) both have spines between their horns.

DISTRIBUTION
The East Coast rock lobster occurs from central Mozambique and Madagascar to East London. They inhabit rocky reefs in the surf zone at depths of 1-36 meters.

FEEDING
The most important prey of the East Coast rock lobster is the brown mussel <i>(Perna perna)</i>. They sever the byssus threads that hold the mussel and can crush the thin edge of the shell using their mouthparts. They also feed on limpets and will scavenge on the seabed.

GROWTH
Rock lobsters grow slowly, reaching sexual maturity after approximately 3 years when their carapace is 50-60 mm long. The legal size limit is 65 mm, to ensure that animals caught have had a chance to breed. If a rock lobster loses a leg or feeler, a new one is grown but then their overall growth is slower. It is therefore important not to damage undersize rock lobsters. Try to determine if an animal is the right size before attempting to catch it.

REPRODUCTION
Breeding occurs in summer and that is why we have a closed season from 1 November to the end of February: to protect the lobsters while they are brooding their eggs so these can hatch and replenish our stocks. Male rock lobsters place a packet of sperm on the underbelly of females. When the female is ready to lay eggs, she scratches open the packet to fertilise her eggs and then places them on the paddles (pleopods) under her tail. The eggs are tended there until they hatch. The larvae spend about five months in the currents out at sea and undergo metamorphosis 11 times before returning inshore. Larger female rock lobsters produce three times more eggs than smaller females.

FISHERY
In KwaZulu-Natal, rock lobsters may only be collected by permitted recreational harvesters. This sector collect 138 000 to 450 000 kg of rock lobster each year.

MANAGEMENT
The East Coast rock lobster stock is managed using a closed season, size limits, bag limits and gear limits. It is also illegal to possess any rock lobster carrying eggs.

With thanks to www.kznwildlife.co.za

Sardine Run - Alexander Safanov

 Every year in winter, vast shoals of sardines that have spawned in the waters of Antarctica travel the cold-water currents south of the East Coast of South Africa. Sometimes a combination of wind and current will allow a tongue of cold water to intrude into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean – and then millions upon millions of sardines come close enough to be seen from shore or even washed up on the beach. This phenomenon, which occurs no- where else on earth, can be witnessed from the beaches of the Wild Coast – if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time.

 From the air, the shoals look like huge dark clouds in the water. Each shoal has several ‘doughnuts’ – rings of clear water where the sardines are taking evasive action from sharks. On the surface of the sea the presence of shoals is signalled by huge flocks of sea-birds that follow the shoals. The surface seethes like boiling water as fish, predators and birds thrash in furious pursuit and escape.

On the beach the shoals come right into the shallows and the sea becomes alive and bright silver. The natural bounty is almost incomprehensible, and leads to a human condition called ‘Sardine Fever’, where bystanders rush into the water and catch the little fish in every single receptacle imaginable, including plastic wash-baskets, hats, aprons – even generous underwear is pressed into service.

The sardines are then sold to the unlucky few who could not get their own, or taken home for many future meals. The best way to cook these fish, say the pundits, is on an open fire, at sunset, right there on the beach, with plenty of rock salt and lemon juice. (All pictures copyright Alexander Safanov)

Source: GrindTV