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Black Musselcracker

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    Posted: 24 Jul 2019 at 2:24pm
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Joined: 07 Oct 2008
Location: Whanga-Vegas
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Imagine if our snapper got to this size...

Fun Fishy Facts – Black musselcracker, also known as poenskop, biskop or black steenbras, is one of the most iconic bottomfish species found in southern African waters. This hard fighting, popular angling fish is endemic and is only found between southern Mozambique and Cape Agulhas. Fish tagging has shown that black musselcracker are very resident as juveniles. On reaching maturity (at around 60 cm and an age of about 10 years), adult musselcracker move onto deeper reefs and there is a tendency for them to move northwards up the coast to spawn. As their name indicates, black musselcracker feed largely on shellfish and are able to crush the shells of their prey with their powerful jaws and strong, rounded teeth. They have an interesting reproductive biology and change sex from female to male (protogynous hermaphrodites), with all fish bigger than 95 cm being males. Achieving a maximum official recorded weight of 38 kgs, black musselcracker are one of the slowest growing linefish species and have been aged to over 45 years! Life history characteristics such as slow growth, late maturity, high residency and sex change make this species very vulnerable to over-fishing. Although no formal stock assessment has been done, scientists estimate that the black musselcracker stock has been fished down to less than 20% of their unfished state. As a consequence there is a strict bag limit of 1 per person per day and a minimum size limit of 50 cm total length. Work in South Africa’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) such as Tsitsikamma and Pondoland has shown that black musselcracker respond well to protection and increase in number and size over time. Although good eating, perhaps we should think twice about killing these iconic angling fish, after all it may be older than us! Thanks for the pic Dennis King

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." - Jacques Cousteau
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