Giant kob (previously known as dusky kob) are found in estuaries and on rocky reefs and sandy bottoms from southern Mozambique to False Bay. They are also found off the coasts of Australia, Japan, Pakistan and India.
This shark is called a pyjama shark because it looks like it’s wearing striped pyjamas.
Red stumpnose are endemic off South Africa and occur from False Bay to Margate, although they are more common south of East London.
They have steep foreheads which, in males, become increasingly pronounced and bulbous as they get older. They have strong molars which they use to crush prey such as redbait, urchins, octopuses and crabs.
Although red stumpnose are good to eat, they have been over-exploited. Presently they may only be caught once they have reached a minimum size of 30cm and anglers may only catch one fish per person per day.
Red stumpnose are currently listed as a Red species on SASSI’s Customer Seafood List, which means you should not buy or sell these fish as seafood.
Photograph by Dagny Warmerdam.
These fish use camouflage to mimic the ripple patterns in the sand caused by currents and tides.
They feed mainly on bottom-dwelling animals e.g. cracker shrimps, sea lice and molluscs.
Romans are an endemic species found on rocky reefs off southern Africa at depths from 5m to 100m.
Like other sea breams, the roman has the ability to change sex, in this instance from female to male.
The male attracts a harem of females, with which he will mate. A large male is very aggressive and will defend his harem and territory against all intruders, including competitive males.
His frantic protective behaviour attracts the attention of predators, which increases his risk of being eaten.
Should this happen, the dominant female will immediately take over his role. Sex change takes a little longer.
There are 51 species of surgeon fish, 19 of which occur in southern African waters.
Surgeon fish are so named because of the scalpel-like spines on either side of their tail fins, which are folded into a groove when not in use.
When surgeons are threatened or alarmed, they lift their scalpel spines, using them to slash at their attackers! They also use the spines to wedge themselves into cracks in the reef.
The pencilled surgeon has a single fixed spine on each side of the base of its caudal fin, which is used in defense or when fighting.
Adults live in caves on reefs at depths of up to 100m, or in open water around sea mounts and islands.
The juveniles are found in estuaries where they graze on algae-covered rocks.
Devil firefish (common lionfish)
Devil firefish (Pterois miles) have beautiful reddish or brown stripes and delicate fins, making them interesting to watch and photograph. “Pterois” means “winged” and “miles” means soldier, so in English, their species name means “winged soldier”.
The “strepie” (which means “small stripe” in Afrikaans) is so-called because of the bright yellow stripes that run horizontally along this silver fish’s body.
Strepies (Sarpa salpa) are smallish, silvery fish with plump bodies, that can grow up to about 30cm in length.
They are also known locally as “karanteen” and are often used as bait by anglers.
They occur in both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, but prefer cooler water and rocky areas. According to A Guide to The Common Sea Fishes of Southern Africa by Rudy van der Elst (Struik, 1985), this is one of the most abundant herbivorous fish species in southern Africa, and is “undoubtedly an important link in the foodweb”.
This distinctive little fish occurs south from Mozambique, round Cape Point, all the way up the west coast of Africa, and throughout the Mediterranean.
Strepies are listed as Green (good choice) on SASSI’s Consumer Seafood Watch list. Green-listed species are good choices because they are more plentiful and can cope better with fishing pressure.
There are 30 to 40 different kinds of seahorses, but only five of these have been seen around the southern African coastline.
The Knysna seahorse is the best known, and is the only seahorse that is endangered.
These sharks are often confused with puff adder shysharks but can be identified by their broader, more bluntly rounded snouts and depressed heads, and their large, light spots on a dark body.
These shysharks are similar in colour and markings to puffadder snakes, hence their name.
Beaked sandfish use their hard-pointed snouts to burrow in the sand, where they hide out during the day. At night they come out to hunt.
Note how big their eyes are – this is a sign that they are nocturnal hunters.