The surf zone ichthyoplankton of Swartvlei Bay was studied between February 1986 and June 1987, with particular emphasis on its potential role as a nursery area for estuarine associated marine fish species. Larvae and/or postlarvae of 16 families were identified from the surf zone, with the Gobiidae, Soleidae, Sparidae and Mugilidae comprising 85·7% of all teleosts sampled. The postlarvae of several taxa (including the six most common species), which utilize the Swartvlei estuary as a juvenile nursery area, were abundant in the surf zone. Conversely, species which are common in nearshore marine waters as juveniles and adults, but seldom enter estuaries, totalled less than 8% of the surf zone ichthyoplankton assemblage. Larval and postlarval densities peaked during summer when water temperatures exceeded 19°C and the estuary mouth was open. Concentrations of ichthyoplankton were highest at those sampling stations closest to the estuary mouth during the summer period. Diel changes in total catches revealed no significant difference between day and night densities; but of the four major taxa, the Mugilidae and Sparidae tended to be more abundant during the day, the Gobiidae at night and the Soleidae showed no distinct pattern. Results from a 24 h sampling session indicated that tidal phase may also be important in governing ichthyoplankton abundance in the surf zone. © 1989.
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