From start to ‘fin’-ish: Unearthing the fynbos fish of the Nuwejaars River

 

A new mission has launched – to find out more about the secretive fynbos fish species that have survived for millions of years hidden in these waters.

1. Hidden in the dark, acidic waters of the Nuwejaars River, the wetlands and its many tributaries, lies an incredible ecosystem, of which very little is known.

2. These waterscapes are home to threatened fynbos fish species, which can remain hidden from human eyes. They’ve survived for millions of years – evolving quietly as river systems have changed over time.

3. The Nuwejaars system is home to at least four species of these fynbos fish: Heuningnes Redfin (Pseudobarbus sp. nov. heuningnes,), Heuningnes Galaxias (Galaxias sp. nov. heuningnes), Galaxias nebula and Cape Kurper (Sandelia sp. nov. Agulhas – likely a new lineage). They’re all special, but the Heuningnes Redfins and Heuningnes Galaxias are currently listed as Endangered, while the Cape Kurper is listed as Data Deficient.

4. Now we need to find out more about these fish species. So with the support of Fondation Segré through IUCN Save Our Species, we’ve launched a project of discovery with our partner, the Fynbos Fish Trust – to map where our fynbos fish thrive, survive, and where the threats are. The project team is led by supervisor Anja Vos, with Environmental Monitors Breyton Murtz (right) and Janlu Nieuwoudt (left) undertaking the field work.

5. Project partner, the Fynbos Fish Trust’s Riaan van der Walt (left) shared his knowledge and skills with the team on how to undertake the field work, and to accurately capture the data.

6. The biggest threat to our fynbos fish is likely to be invasive fish in our rivers – such as Spotted Bass and Mozambique Tilapia (pictured here). So data also needs to be captured on these fish, to feed into conservation mitigation.

7. South Africa’s leading fynbos fish expert, Prof Albert Chakona (left) of the National Research Foundation (NRF) South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) visited our rivers in the past, to better understand these fynbos fish. But we were thrilled to welcome him and his team, Xiluva Mathebula (centre) and Nkosinathi Mazungula (right) to the NWSMA in February this year, as part of this project. And joining them was Dr Martine Jordaan of CapeNature, who also provided her insights on fynbos fish, her passion project.

8. Prof Chakona and his team could help the NWSMA project staff identify the various fish in the river. The two Galaxias species that occur here, Heuninges Galaxias and Galaxias nebula, look similar. His expert eye could highlight the differences (look at the size of the eyes – the Heuningnes Galaxias (left) has a much bigger eye than his more common counterpart).

9. Prof Chakona and Riaan van der Walt were particularly thrilled to find their favourite species, the Redfins, in this river system. The research that will now take place will feed into the Red Data listing of the Heuninges Redfin.

10. With their new skills on hand, the Nuwejaars team will over the next year cover around 40kms of rivers, streams and wetlands here to learn more about these threatened species. And working with our partners, the Fynbos Fish Trust, along with CapeNature and NRF-SAIAB, plans will be put in place to protect them. Pictured here from left: Janlu Nieuwoudt and Breyton Murtz (NWSMA Environmental Monitors), Anja Vos (NWSMA Fynbos Fish Project Supervisor), Eugene Hahndiek (NWSMA Conservation Manager), Nkosinathi Mazungula (NRF-SAIAB Collections Manager), Xiluva Mathebula (SANBI Groen Sebenza/NRF-SAIAB Intern), Dr Martine Jordaan (CapeNature Fauna Ecologist) and Prof Albert Chakona (NRF-SAIAB Chief Scientist).

This project is made possible by:

 

With project partners:

 

This project is supported by Fondation Segré through IUCN Save Our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Nuwejaars River Nature Reserve and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN or Fondation Segré.

 

Donors and partners

 

To our donors over the past financial year, we are incredibly grateful. Thank you for your support, enabling us to protect this irreplaceable area, and improve lives here:

 

 

Donors and partners

To our donors over the past financial year, we are incredibly grateful. Thank you for your support, enabling us to protect this irreplaceable area, and improve lives here:

 

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