Journal article Open Access

Estuaries as Nurseries for the Jacks Caranx ignobilis and Caranx melampygus (Carangidae) in Hawaii

Smith, G. C.; Parrish, J. D.

Estuaries provide juvenile nursery habitat for many species of fish that inhabit marine environments as adults. In Hawaii, some juvenile Caranx ignobilis and Caranx melampygus occupy estuaries opportunistically before moving to nearshore ocean habitats. This study examined the extent and nature of estuarine habitat available in the lower Hanalei River of Kauai, the relative abundance and distribution of jacks in the estuary, and their diets. Salinity measurements indicated that the upstream extent of saltwater ranged from the mouth to nearly 5 km upriver and was strongly influenced by the variable river discharge. Juvenile jacks between 80 and 310 mm FL were observed on underwater transects over the full range of mixohaline conditions. Hand-operated seine collections produced overall catch rates of ∼0·64 fish/haul for each of these species. The two jacks ate much the same spectrum of food items. C. ignobilis was somewhat more piscivorous than C. melampygus, as determined by measures of frequency of predation and number and bulk of prey. Data for length at age, incorporating daily otolith increment counts from these estuarine juveniles and previous counts from non-estuarine specimens, were fitted to a lifetime von Bertalanffy growth model. The results greatly extended the age range of the model and suggested that growth rates were not much different between estuarine and non-estuarine fish.

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