Tag Archive AER

We were busy celebrating the World Fish Migration Day 2018 !

The Aquatic Ecosystem Research team has been busy with World Fish Migration Day 21st April 2018: Kruger National Park – Sabie River, Palmiet River and Msunduzi/uMngeni River.

World fish migration day (WFMD) is an event held globally every two years aquatic scientist with support from the World Fish Migration Foundation (WFMF). The WFMF encourages scientist within water resource research to host an event locally to create awareness for the migration of fish, promoting the connectivity of rivers and the work they are doing to contribute to river connectivity. The Aquatic Ecosystem Research (AER) group within the CWRR at UKZN co-hosted with WFMF (a team of Dutch scientists) and South African National Parks (SANParks) an event within the Kruger National Park. This event became the WFMD headquarters for Africa. The event extended over three days ending on the 21st of April in Skukuza Rest Camp and had various activities all focusing around fish connectivity within Rivers, and the benefits of having healthy fish to have healthy Rivers and healthy people.

On the day the book “From Sea to Source 2.0: Protection and restoration of fish migration in rivers worldwide” was launched. The book contained articles from all over the world on different problems and solutions to fish migrations three small chapters were written by Dr Gordon O’Brien programme leader for the AER-UKZN group. The book was handed over to and warmly received by the Managing Executive of KNP Mr Glenn Philips. Other SANParks official along with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) for Limpopo and environmental consulting companies attended the event.

Leading up to the day, Kanniedood Dam near Shingwedzi Rest Camp was demolished using explosives as part of the KNP’s water management policy to restore the parks natural water distribution and improve river connectivity. Further natural science pupils from local schools were invited to be educated on the topic of fish migrations and interact with local and international scientist and managers, with the Sabie River weir and gauging station used as demonstrations. The students were given the chance to see some of the local fish species as the AER team showed them how to catch fish and do SASS5 monitoring. Other activities for the event included: Press releases from local and international news organisations, fishway demonstrations, face paints, a small aquarium with local species (15 species were on display) and posters of the research the AER-UKZN group are involved in.

The team involvement in Kruger also lead to a nice article in the Sunday Citizen, that you can read here.

Here within KwaZulu-Natal the AER hosted two other events. The first event took place on the 11 March to accommodate the high-school canoe races, the second took place within the Palmiet River event on the 21st April. The canoe race was co-hosted with the girls from St Anne’s High School. The challenge was to paddle the race upstream instead of downstream. The idea was warmly received, and the kids got first-hand experience of what fish go through when migrating upstream. The kids got fully involved tackling rapids, current and dams to get to the finish line. The whole event was filmed and presented to the world on World Fish Migration Day in Skukuza, KNP and launched online. The theme around the video was ‘Duzi Gold’ with yellowfish being equated to a living commodity as valuable as gold. Check out our video by searching for ‘Duzi Gold’ online to see the paddlers paddling upstream.

The Palmiet River event was co-hosted with the Palmiet River Valley Conservancy (PRVC). The Palmiet River was selected as it flows directly into the Umgeni River Estuary and is a socio-economically important system, despite the many problems it faces as an urban river. The socio-ecological importance of fish communities was highlighted, as well as the multiple stressors negatively influencing them, particularly within the Palmiet River. The event had various public interaction sessions with an array of activities. An aquarium housing the species caught within the Palmiet were on show, this included a 900 mm eel which became the centre of attention. Maps were placed on displays providing information to the public. In addition, citizen science tools (miniSASS and the clarity tube) were demonstrated. Members of the public were encouraged to take cognisance of the environmental impacts around them and to take action.

 

All in all, World Fish Migration Day was a great success! The various events held by the AER-UKZN team with support from the CWRR centre all drew in the crowds and created much needed awareness towards the connectivity of Rivers. We all started thinking of how well-connected our rivers are, particularly the uMgeni River. Not only are we fighting pollution issues’ but we need to create free flowing rivers within the catchments we find ourselves in.

 

Follow these links to learn more.

World Fish Migration Day: https://www.worldfishmigrationday.com/

From Sea to Source 2.0: Protection and restoration of fish migration in rivers worldwide: https://jonesriver.org/getfile/herringcount/FromSeaToSource2.0.pdf

Duzi Gold Series

 

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Tales of a 6-months internship with the AER Team by Emily Winter

Emily Winter shares some of the highlights of her six-month internship with the Aquatic Ecosystem Research Group.

Back in April, I was pleased to be met with a welcoming and enthusiastic group at UKZN, who readily introducing me to the research themes, team members and field sites. I was eager to challenge myself and quickly got stuck into some fish surgery practice with Céline and Matthew, in preparation for the FishTrack project in the uMngeni catchment. I soon overcame my fear of croc-infested waters and could be found checking nets and electro-fishing at Fountain Hill Estate in search of the Natal yellowfish. I was excited to be assisting Matthew and co in the development of their new, real-time telemetry project.

Assisting Matt in catching yellow fish in Fountainhill Estate (Wartburg)

While also assisting with the quarterly REMP (River Eco Status Monitoring Programme) surveys, my own project was developing under the watchful eyes of Gordon and Celine, and in June I joined the SAPPI team to explore the lower Thukela catchment and monitor its fish and invertebrate communities. A hypothesis was born, and I focussed my investigations on the use of the Nembe and eMandeni tributaries by fish when the Thukela river is in flux. My fish identification and surveying skills progressed rapidly with the support of Mahomed, particularly in distinguishing between the small barb (Enteromius) species, and I was proud to be able to lead similar surveys in July and August. The opportunity to survey the Thukela fishway with Gordon, David and Mphatheni was a particular highlight, with initial results suggesting that the structure does not function as a migration corridor as well as would be hoped.

Conducting REMP surveys in the Umgeni with Fortunate and Pumla.

In the final few months, I was very fortunate to be invited to contribute towards international efforts for a review paper on African fish migrations (yet to be published). The experience has been invaluable in developing my scientific critique, writing and collaboration skills and I have learnt a considerable amount about African freshwater ecology in the process. Despite returning to Europe, I am excited about continuing this trend, maintaining connections with my new South African friends and colleagues, and developing ways in which we can work together in the future. With the help of Mahomed, I will be remotely completing the ‘Tributary Refuge’ project on the Thukela and I look forward to sharing the results with the wider research community when the time comes.

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Tagging Natal Yellowfish in the uMngeni River

The tagging of Natal Yellowfish (Labeobarbus natalensis) in the uMngeni River,

Figure 1: One of the tagged Natal Yellowfish at Albert Falls dam, showing the good size and condition of fish needed for tagging.

As part of the uMngeni Fish track study headed up by the Aquatic Ecosystem Research Group a yellowfish tagging survey was organised. This is for the component of the real time remote monitoring project that is crucial in assisting AER to understanding Natal Yellowfish behaviour and establishing the remote monitoring network. Having tagged fish in the river will allow the team to assess yellowfish movements and strategically place water probes and remote stations to obtain data in real time. This is exciting to see as some of the results start to come in.
The AER team went out to Albert Falls Dam and Fountain Hill Estate to tag Natal Yellowfish. The fish were caught using gillnets and electro-shocking. Gill nets were monitored constantly to prevent injury to fish. Suitable fish were remove from the net immediately on capture and then transferred to a holding net. Electroshocking was using in shallow fast flowing rocky habitats, suitable fish caught were transferred to a holding net. In total 3 fish were acquired that were fit to be tagged.

Figure 2: Catching yellowfish using the electro-shocking method at Fountain Hill Estate, one can see the yellowfish in front of the excited researchers

Tagging procedures took place under 17 minutes for each fish. The procedure requires surgically implanting of the tag into the abdominal cavity. Two fish surgeons were scrubbed up to maintain a sterile environment while operating, the surgical equipment was sterilized beforehand in an autoclave and opened on site during the operation. Assistants helped handle the fish and non-sterile equipment while the surgeons operated. These steps were taken to create a sterile environment around the incision to prevent infection. The following steps were taken to ensure a smooth quick operation; Fish were anaesthetized using phenoxyethanol. Once signs of narcosis were shown, the fish was then moved onto the operating table and put into position. A pipe pumping water over its gills was maintain throughout the operation to minimize exposure of the fish to the air. An incision was then made in the area between the pelvic fins and anal fin into the abdominal cavity being careful not to cut too close to the anus or pelvic fins. This insertion cuts through to the abdominal cavity were the tag is the inserted. The tags aerial is set using a spinal needle and then once the tag is in place the abdomen is stitched up using suture material. Wound-gel is then applied over the wound to protect it from bacterial infection and allow the mucus layer to recover. To further assist with this anti-biotics are applied. Finally, the fish is placed into a recovery container and held there until signs of narcosis are no longer evident. The fish is then release by allowing it to swim away from the tagger.

All three fish were successfully tagged and released. The Fountain Hill yellowfish named “Drone” is already swimming around one of our remote stations and providing us with valuable data. The two Albert Falls yellowfish (named David and Fortunate) were released and picked-up within the dam later in the day. The AER team is currently setting up the remote network to be able to track them. The tagging procedure was a great success and will get better as we expand the study showing how fish can help us monitor the environment in real time.

Figure 3: Shows the release of the Natal Yellowfish after the tagging procedure, swimming freely on its own.

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