Unravelling links between squid catch variations and biophysical mechanisms in South African waters

Using satellite observations, this study uncovers the biophysical drivers of the lucrative chokka squid fishery in South Africa over the last two decades (1998–2017) and addresses their potential links with low squid catches. Chokka squid fishing is crucial to the economic wellbeing of local communities. However, the squid biomass is prone to considerable fluctuations, including abrupt declines with negative socio-economic impacts. We show that the squid catch is significantly and positively correlated with satellite-derived chlorophyll-a (Chl-a, an index of phytoplankton biomass) from year to year in South African coastal waters. Two main phytoplankton blooms are observed to occur seasonally in the austral spring and autumn, peaking in October and April, respectively. From October to April, phytoplankton abundance is influenced by the occurrence of wind-driven upwelling over the South African west coast (southern Benguela) and the central Agulhas Bank (so-called Cold Ridge upwelling), while the surface currents appear more important for shelf edge processes and advection along the Cold Ridge on shorter timescales. Low squid catches are observed in 2001 and 2013 and linked to declines in Chl-a induced by weak winds and relaxed negative wind stress curl over the southwest coast in 2001, and over the southwest coast and the central Agulhas Bank in 2013. Phytoplankton phenology (bloom timing) analysis reveals absent, or shorter and delayed blooms, over the Benguela upwelling region in 2001 and both the Benguela and Cold Ridge upwelling areas in 2013. In contrast, the high catch years of 2004 and 2009, associated with elevated Chl-a, coincide with early and/or prolonged seasonal blooms. These are induced by strong winds over the Benguela upwelling and Cold Ridge areas in 2004, and by intensified negative wind stress curl over the Benguela upwelling area in 2009. These results show that the squid catch fluctuations are potentially predictable and could support policymakers seeking to improve their planning of adaptation strategies and risk mitigation.

Jebri, Raitsos, D. E., Gittings, J. A., Jacobs, Z. L., Srokosz, M., Gornall, J., Sauer, W. H. H., Roberts, M. J., & Popova, E. (2022). Unravelling links between squid catch variations and biophysical mechanisms in South African waters. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 196, 105028. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2022.105028

The study was supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) under NERC grant NE/P021050/1 in the framework of the SOLSTICE-WIO project (https://www.solstice-wio.org/). The satellite SST and the altimetry-derived absolute geostrophic currents were distributed by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service (CMEMS) (http://www.marine.copernicus.eu). We thank the ESA Ocean Colour CCI project for processing and providing the Chl-a dataset online at http://www.esa-oceancolour-cci.org/. We acknowledge the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) for producing and the Climate Data Store (CDS) for distributing the ERA-5 wind dataset. We thank the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) for providing the squid catch data. Michael J. Roberts and Jessica Gornall are partly funded by the joint National Research Foundation (NRF) ‒ British Council, Newton Fund Grant SARChI 150326116102/NRF 98399. John A. Gittings was supported by a grant from the Living Planet Fellowship of the European Space Agency (POSEIDON/14-03-2021).

Elsevier BV

Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography


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