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EBSA overview  |  Delineation |  Summary of description updates  | Revised description

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EBSA overview

Protea Banks and Sardine Route on the South African south-east coast includes a key component of the migration path for several fish (known as the sardine run) and an offshore area of high habitat complexity. The sardine run is an important ecological process that facilitates nutrient transfer from the productive Agulhas Bank to the oligotrophic KwaZulu-Natal coast. It is a temporary process attracting foraging top predators, including seabirds, mammals, sharks and gamefish. Benthic features of the EBSA include a unique deep-reef system known as Protea Banks, steep shelf edge and slope, and four submarine canyons. Protea Banks is an aggregating area, with spawning of sciaenids and sparids reported here. This EBSA also forms a key component of the loggerhead and leatherback migration and hatchling dispersal routes. 

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Delineation

Open or collapse the legend as a sidebar by clicking the icon in the top left corner of the map. In the legend you can turn on/off the old/new extents of the EBSA. You can zoom in/out using the mouse or the +/- buttons on the map, and click on the features for more information.

 

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Summary of updates and revisions to the EBSA description

1 new reference added; major revisions to Criterion 3: importance for threatened species. No further research has been conducted in the area.

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Revised EBSA description

NOTE: Read this here, or download the Word document on the right sidebar.

 

General Information

Summary

This area includes a key component of the migration path for several fish (known as the sardine run) and an offshore area of high habitat complexity. Benthic features include a unique deep-reef system known as Protea Banks, steep shelf edge and slope, and four submarine canyons. The sardine run is a temporary feature associated with foraging top predators, including seabirds, mammals, sharks and gamefish. Protea Banks is an aggregating area with spawning of sciaenids and sparids reported. Some of these species are in decline and are considered threatened. This area has moderate productivity, and the sardine run represents an important ecological process that facilitates the transfer of nutrients from the more productive Agulhas Bank into the more oligotrophic environment further north.

 

Introduction of the area

The Protea Banks and Sardine Route includes a key component of the migration path for several fish (known as the sardine run) and an offshore area of high habitat complexity. Benthic features include a unique deep reef system known as Protea Banks, steep shelf edge and slope. Protea Banks comprises a relatively shallow “seamount” that drops to extensive rocky flats that extend towards the shelf edge (the full extent of which is currently uncertain). It constitutes a site of fish spawning aggregations and is home to an abundance of soft corals, algae and molluscs, many of which are endemic. The area includes benthic and pelagic features, with further details on habitats, processes and species detailed in Mann (2000), Freon et al., (2010), Sink et al., (2011), Harris et al., (2011) and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (2012; the EBSA focus area falls within the “area 20” site of this report). The sardine run is a temporary feature usually associated with foraging top predators, including seabirds, mammals (O’Donoghue et al., 2010a, 2010b), sharks and gamefish (Dudley and Cliff 2010, Fennessy et al., 2010).

 

Description of the location

EBSA Region

Southern Indian Ocean

 

Description of location

Latitudes of approximately 30°S to 32°S and longitudes of approximately 30°E to 31°E.

 

Geo-Location

SIO_4_EBSA.geojson

 

Area Details

Feature description of the area

This area includes benthic and pelagic features, with details on habitats, processes and species in Mann 2000, Freon et al., 2010, Sink et al., 2011, Harris et al., 2011 and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife 2012 (note that this area falls within the area 20 site of the latter report). The area includes part of a key migration pathway (known as the sardine run) that is an important ecological process believed to play a role in the transfer of productivity from the productive Agulhas bank into the less productive area in southern KwaZulu-Natal. Some research has been conducted on the sardine migration (see Freon et al., 2010, Van der Lingen et al., 2010) but the heterogeneous benthic habitats in deep water are poorly studied. Key habitats include a unique deep-reef feature, four submarine canyons (with seven reef-building cold-water coral records, representing three different species, in the national invertebrate museum collection), hard shelf edge and unconsolidated shelf and shelf edge sediments. In situ research is needed in the deeper areas of this area meeting EBSA criteria.

 

Feature conditions and future outlook of the proposed area

South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment 2011 (Sink et al., 2012) indicated declining conditions overall in this area (based on pressure data and an ecosystem-pressure matrix), with conditions ranging from fair to poor across the Protea Banks and Sardine Route. Fish species in the area include threatened or depleted species. There is planned research in the Protea Banks area through the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Program Phase III.

 

References

BirdLife International. 2009. Designing networks of marine protected areas: exploring the linkages between Important Bird Areas and ecologically or biologically significant marine areas. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. www.cbd.int/doc/meetings/mar/ewbcsima-01/other/ewbcsima-01-birdlife-02-en.pdf

BirdLife International. 2010. Marine Important Bird Areas toolkit: standardised techniques for identifying priority sites for the conservation of seabirds at-sea. BirdLife International, Cambridge UK. Version 1.1: May 2010. www.birdlife.org/eu/pdfs/Marine_IBA_Toolkit_2010.pdf

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. 2012. Focus areas for additional marine biodiversity protection in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Unpublished Report - Jan 2012. Scientific Services, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife: Durban. Pp 62.

Fréon P, JC Coetzee, CD van der Lingen, AD Connell, SH O’Donoghue, MJ Roberts, H Demarcq, CG Attwood, SJ Lamberth and L Hutchings. Review and tests of hypotheses about causes of the KwaZulu-Natal sardine run. African Journal of Marine Science 2010, 32(2): 449–479

O’Donoghue SH, Drapeau L, Peddemors VM. 2010a. Broad-scale distribution patterns of sardine and their predators in relation to remotely sensed environmental conditions during the KwaZulu- Natal sardine run. African Journal of Marine Science 32: 279–291.

O’Donoghue SH, Whittington PA, Peddemors VM, Dyer BM 2010b. Abundance and distribution of avian and marine mammal predators of sardine observed during the 2005 KwaZulu-Natal sardine run survey. African Journal of Marine Science 32: 361–374.

O’Donoghue SH, Drapeau L, Dudley SFJ, Peddemors VM. 2010c. The KwaZulu-Natal sardine run: shoal distribution in relation to nearshore environmental conditions, 1997–2007. African Journal of Marine Science 32: 293–307.

Fennessey ST, Pradervand P and De Bryn P. 2010. Influence of the sardine run on selected nearshore predatory teleosts in KwaZulu-Natal. African Journal of Marine Science 32 (2):375- 382.

Harris JM, Livingstone T, Lombard AT, Lagabrielle E, Haupt P, Sink K, Mann B and Schleyer M. 2011. Marine Systematic Conservation Assessment and Plan for KwaZulu-Natal - Spatial priorities for conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Harris, L.R., Nel, R., Oosthuizen, H., Meyer, M., Kotze, D., Anders, D., McCue, S., Bachoo, S. Managing conflicts between economic activities and threatened migratory marine species towards creating a multi-objective blue economy. Conservation Biology, in review.

Haupt P. 2010. Conservation assessment and plan for fish species along the KwaZulu-Natal coast. MSc Thesis, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa.

Hutchings L, Beckley LE, Griffiths MH, Roberts MJ, Sundby S, van der Lingen C. 2002. Spawning on the edge: spawning grounds and nursery areas around the southern African coastline. Marine and Freshwater Research 53: 307-318.

Lagabrielle E. 2009. Preliminary report: National Pelagic Bioregionalisation of South Africa. Cape Town: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Lutjeharms JRE, Gründlingh M and Carter RA. 1989. Topographically induced upwelling in the Natal Bight. South African Journal of Science, 85(5): 310 -316.)

Lutjeharms JRE, Cooper J and Roberts M 2000. Upwelling at the inshore edge of the Agulhas Current. Continental Shelf Research, 20(7): 737 – 761.

Sink KJ, Attwood CG, Lombard AT, Grantham H, Leslie R, Samaai T, Kerwath S, Majiedt P, Fairweather T, Hutchings L, van der Lingen C, Atkinson LJ, Wilkinson S, Holness S, Wolf T. 2011. Spatial planning to identify focus areas for offshore biodiversity protection in South Africa. Unpublished Report. Cape Town: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Sink K, Holness S, Harris L, Majiedt P, Atkinson L, Robinson T, Kirkman S, Hutchings L, Leslie R, Lamberth S, Kerwath S, von der Heyden S, Lombard A, Attwood C, Branch G, Fairweather T, Taljaard S, Weerts S, Cowley P, Awad A, Halpern B, Grantham H, Wolf T. 2012. National Biodiversity Assessment 2011: Technical Report. Volume 4: Marine and Coastal Component. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

www.seabirdtracking.org – tracking contributors who provided data presented at this workshop are: Maria Ana Dias, Paulo Catry, Teresa Catry, Robert Crawford, Richard Cuthbert, Karine Delord, Jacob Gonzalez-Solis, Jano Hennicke, Matthieu Le Corre, Deon Nel, Malcolm Nicoll, Jose Pedro Granadeiro, Samantha Petersen, Richard Phillips, Patrick Pinet, Jaime Ramos, Jean-Baptiste Thiebot, Ross Wanless, Henri Weimerskirch, Vikash Tatayah.

 

Other relevant website address or attached documents

Additional information_SIO_4.pdf (/api/v2013/documents/F2B22EDA-0071-2372-671B-B95A5D09A2DC/attachments/Additional%20information_SIO_4.pdf)

SIO_4_EBSA-GIS shapefile.zip (/api/v2013/documents/F2B22EDA-0071-2372-671B-B95A5D09A2DC/attachments/SIO_4_EBSA-GIS%20shapefile.zip)

 

Status of submission

Areas described as meeting EBSA criteria that were considered by the Conference of the Parties

 

COP Decision

dec-COP-12-DEC-22

 

Assessment of the area against CBD EBSA criteria

C1: Uniqueness or rarity High

Justification

This area includes two very unique features: a large component of the migratory route of a migratory population of sardines and a unique deep reef feature that hosts species known only from this location. It is noted that this could be perceived as uniqueness, as deep reefs are poorly studied in this region, but no similar bathymetric features have been noted in this depth range in the province (Sink et al., 2011). The migratory route component is a key part of the migration path for several species and is part of a globally unique phenomenon referred to as the “sardine run” (Freon et al., 2010). The term “sardine run” is part of the cultural heritage of the South African nation and refers to a natural phenomenon that involves the coastal, alongshore movement during early austral winter of a small and variable fraction of the South African population of sardine (Sardinops sagax) from the eastern Agulhas Bank to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) coast. The sardine run is associated with foraging top predators such as seabirds, mammals (O’Donoghue et al., 2010a, 2010b), sharks and gamefish (Dudley and Cliff 2010, Fennessy et al., 2010) that facilitate its visual detection.

C2: Special importance for life-history stages of species High

Justification

This area includes the Protea Banks, a known spawning aggregation site for several species (Mann 2000) and an area that is part of an important migration path for several species, most notably the “Natal sardine run”. A genetically distinct portion of the South African population of sardine Sardinops sagax migrates through this area as part of a well-known phenomenon that is less well understood from a process perspective (Van der Lingen et al., 2010). The sardines are followed by large numbers of sharks, cetaceans and seabirds. Key species that are included in this migration event include Geelbek (Atractoscion aequidens) and Garrick (Lichia amia), and the area is also important for the endemic and threatened sparid Seventy-four (Polysteganus undulosus) (Mann et al., 2000, Fennessey et al., 2010). This area is considered a nursing ground for the sparid Chrysoblephus puniceus (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife 2012). BirdLife data indicates that this area is important for foraging white chinned petrels, and the sardine run is a key ecological event providing forage fish for Cape gannets (Freon et al., 2010, O’Donoghue et al., 2010).

C3: Importance for threatened, endangered or declining species and/or habitats Medium

Justification

This area has some importance for overexploited sparids and sciaenids (Mann 2000) and Vulnerable (IUCN global redlist) seabirds. Overexploited sparid and scienids include Chrysoblephus puniceus (Mann 2000). Cape gannets and white chinned petrels utilise this area (Freon et al., 2010, Birdlife tracking data). The Protea Banks and Sardine Route is also a key component of the Critically Endangered leatherback turtles’ migration route (Harris et al., in review), with hatchlings of both leatherbacks and (Near Threatened) loggerheads also dispersing through the area. Green turtles and hawksbills are also present on reefs just north of the Protea Banks and Sardine Route, and are very likely present in the area as well. Threatened habitat types within this area include Endangered Natal inshore reef and some Vulnerable habitats, including Natal sandy shelf, Natal canyon and Natal shelf reef (Sink et al., 2012).

C4: Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery Medium

Justification

This area includes submarine canyons, an area of steep shelf edge and a unique deep-reef system. These habitats may support fragile habitat-forming species. Seven records of two species of reef-building coldwater corals (Goniocorella dumosa, Solenosmilia variabilis) have been recorded in the area (Sink et al., 2011) and are in the Iziko South African museum invertebrate collection. In-situ surveys have not been undertaken in this area, and further research is needed to provide more information on habitat sensitivity.

C5: Biological productivity Medium

Justification

This steep area has a relatively high frequency of chlorophyll-a and SST fronts (Lagabrielle 2009, Sink et al., 2012).

C6: Biological diversity Medium

Justification

Sink et al., (2011) show the high benthic habitat diversity in this area, with many habitat types in a small area. The dynamic pelagic environment and the sardine run also contribute to the high diversity in the pelagic ecosystems (Freon et al., 2010, Van der Lingen et al., 2010).

C7: Naturalness Low

Justification

The pelagic habitat is considered in good condition with benthic habitat types ranging from poor to good (Sink et al., 2012). There is no pelagic long-lining inshore of 20 nm in this area (Sink et al., 2011).

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