Bloodworms. Wonder worms. Shingle worms,
moonshine worms or pudding worms? Which of these do you use most often for fish
bait and how do you collect them?
These questions are part of a national
survey among fishermen conducted by researchers from Stellenbosch University
(SU), SANParks Garden Route National Park and the Knysna Basin Project.
Dr Carol Simon, a marine biologist from SU,
says the aim of the survey is to gain a better understanding of the demand on
polychaete 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
“Our research show 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
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
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
Preliminary data suggest 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
The project is funded by the National
Click here to take the survey.
Dr Carol Simon
Tel: 021 808 3068