The icthyofauna of the Mhlathuze coastal lakes: some preliminary results
The fish faunas of the four Mhlathuze coastal lakes and the lower river comprise a diverse assortment of over fifty marine, estuarine and freshwater species. Three freshwater species are endemic to KwaZulu-Natal and nine estuarine species are endemic to southern Africa. Five species are of conservation significance. Species numbers in Lakes Mzingazi and Cubhu are similar historically and both lakes served as secondary nursery habitats for estuarine associated fishes. This role has been impacted by the construction of weirs at their outlets which prevent successful recruitment of estuarine species, especially during drought years when lake water levels are low. The fish faunas of Lakes Nsezi and Mangeza are depauperate and lack marine or estuarine components. In order that these systems fulfil their potential function as secondary nursery habitats to many estuarine fish species, minimum lake water levels must be set to ensure sufficient outflows at proposed fish ladders during critical spawning and migration times.