Seventy-four Polyste­ganus un­du­lo­sus

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Seventy-four are found only in South Africa, but be­cause of over-fish­ing their range has shrunk to the area be­tween Sod­wana Bay in KwaZulu-Natal and the Agul­has banks. This oval-shaped fish has a sil­ver body with blue and yel­low strips along its side. Adults have a large black dot on their side, above the pec­toral fin. Size and bi­ol­ogy Seventy-four live long, reach­ing a max­i­mum age of 20 years and a max­i­mum length of 1 m. Spawn­ing takes place from late win­ter to spring near off­shore reefs. Habi­tat Adults are mostly found in large shoals on deep off­shore reefs in depths of 40 to 160 m. Ju­ve­niles are also found on off­shore reefs, but slightly shal­lower, from depths of 20 m in the East­ern and Western Cape. What do they eat? Adults feed mostly on other fish species such as sar­dines and mack­erel, but they can also eat squid, oc­to­pus and crus­taceans (crabs). Ju­ve­niles mostly eat smaller an­i­mals such as shrimps. Seventy-four were in­ten­sively fished by com­mer­cial and recre­ational boat-based fish­ers un­til a ban was put in place in 1998. The ban is still in ef­fect to­day but there seems to be ev­i­dence of ju­ve­niles in the East­ern Cape. That’s a record 14,1 kg, caught in 1973. SASSI sta­tus The seventy-four is on the red list and is pro­tected by law. No one in the coun­try is al­lowed to catch, buy or sell one. Text Dr. Taryn Mur­ray Sketch Elaine Heem­stra © South African In­sti­tute for Aquatic Bio­di­ver­sity Ac­cord­ing to Coastal Fishes of South­ern African the Seven­ty­four is named for the spots and lines on its body that re­sem­ble the gun ports of a 16th cen­tury war­ship. – Ed

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