Coast KZN

18 Oct 2017

Fishermen’s survey: how well do you know your marine bait worms?

(The Mercury) Picture: Dr Carol Simon, a marine biologist from Stellenbosch University, is part of a team of researchers who want to gain a better understanding of the demand on polychaete worms as bait along the South African coastline. Here she is pictured with a favorite among fisherman, an extra-long bloodworm.

What is your bait of choice?

Do you use bloodworms, wonder worms, shingle worms, moonshine worms or pudding worms?

These questions form the basis of a national survey among fishermen conducted by researchers from Stellenbosch University, SANParks Garden Route National Park and the Knysna Basin Project.

Dr Carol Simon, a marine biologist from the university, says in a statement that the aim of the survey is to gain a better understanding of the demand on polychaete worms (or bristle worms) as bait along the South African coastline.

At the same time they also hope to reach consensus on the common names used for bait species in South Africa.

“Our research shows that common names for frequently used bait species are often inconsistently used in field guides and information pamphlets and sometimes even in the scientific literature,” she explains.

For example, a single common name may refer to a group of similar worms, or to very different species, or a worm may have more than one common name.

This hampers efficient management of an important resource.

“We have photographed worms that are frequently collected as bait and in the questionnaire we ask fishermen to provide the common names for them. Based on this information, we will then develop a list of names according to common usage.”

The final product will be a taxonomic key to the bait worms of South Africa, with a field identification guide for fishermen.

Dr Simon says this work is important as marine worms perform important ecological functions in our estuaries and sandy beaches.

But they are also extremely important resources to subsistence and recreational fishermen.

Preliminary data suggests that some of the species used in South Africa are widely distributed globally.

“We really need to know what is out there if we want to get a true idea of our biodiversity. With new and exciting diagnostic techniques being developed, taxonomy these days is very much like being a detective or forensic scientist. We want to know where this species came from, how it got there and how it may be related to another species,” she adds.

The project is funded by the National Research Foundation.


Online Article