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Dynamics of the Tsitsikamma current, with implications for larval transportof chokka squid (Loligo reynaudii) on the eastern Agulhas Bank
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The current dynamics along the Tsitsikamma coast is described from a combination of acoustic current measurements. satellite-tracked surface drifters and underwater temperature recordings made between November 2006 and March 2008. The Tsitsikamma coast is largely a Marine Protected Area (MPA) that protects a rich marine biodiversity. The nearshore currents are important in the dispersal of eggs and larvae of many marine species. including the paralarvae of the commercially caught chokka squid. LoNgo reynaudii. Changes in the environment, including the currents. can affect the successful recruitment of chokka squid, and can bring about large annual fluctuations in biomass that creates economic uncertainty in the squid fishery. Results confirm the existence of a predominantly alongshore current off the Tsitsikamma coast. At Middelbank eastward flow was slightly dominant, with a percentage occurrence of 58% vs. 41% westward flow near the surface. The percentage eastward flow decreased with depth, with 41% vs. 58% westward flow near the seabed. At Thyspunt westward and eastward flow occurred at near equal percentages. but westward flow was slightly dominant throughout the water column. The alongshore current was strongest near the surface during eastward flow (maximum = 141 crn.s1: average = 27 crn.s '). while westward surface currents were weaker (maximum velocity = 78 cm.s1: average = 19 crn.s1). Current speed generally decreased with depth and opposing surface and bottom currents, associated with a thermal stratified water column, were occasionally recorded. The nearshore flow regime was characterised by frequent barotropic alongshore reversals that occurred year round. An increase in strong eastward episodes, and opposing surface and bottom currents during spring and summer months have implications for the dispersal of squid paralarvae during the summer and winter spawning seasons. In summer, the combination of strong eastward pulses in the current and upwelling at the capes favoured dispersal onto the midshelf of the Agulhas Bank. In winter, alongshore oscillations without the offshore displacement associated with upwelling. restricted offshore dispersal which caused surface particles to be retained inshore. Drifter trajectories show that both the eastward and westward nearshore current can link the inshore spawning grounds with the nursery grounds, offshore on the central Agulhas Bank; and that passive, neutrally buoyant material in the surface layer can reach the vicinity of the cold ridge in as little as eight days. The wind-driven processes of upwelling and coastal trapped waves (CTWs). and the influence of the greater shelf circulation are discussed as possible driving forces of variability in the currents off the Tsitsikamma coast. The occurrence of coastal trapped waves during thermal stratification appears to drive the jet-like, eastward pulses in the current. and results suggest that the propagation of CTWs may regulate and even enhance upwelling and downwelling along the Tsitsikamma coast.