Biomass-based targets and the management of multispecies coral reef fisheries

McClanahan, T.R., Graham, N.A.J., MacNeil, M.A., and Cinner, J.E. (2015) Biomass-based targets and the management of multispecies coral reef fisheries. Conservation Biology, 29 (2). pp. 409-417.

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Abstract

The failure of fisheries management among multispecies coral reef fisheries is well documented and has dire implications for the 100 million people engaged in these small-scale operations. Weak or missing management institutions, a lack of research capacity, and the complex nature of these ecosystems have heralded a call for ecosystem-based management approaches. However, ecosystem-based management of coral reef fisheries has proved challenging due to the multispecies nature of catches and the diversity of fish functional roles. We used data on fish communities collected from 233 individual sites in 9 western Indian Ocean countries to evaluate changes in the site's functional composition and associated life-history characteristics along a large range of fish biomass. As biomass increased along this range, fish were larger and grew and matured more slowly while the abundance of scraping and predatory species increased. The greatest changes in functional composition occurred below relatively low standing stock biomass (<600 kg/ha); abundances of piscivores, apex predators, and scraping herbivores were low at very light levels of fishing. This suggests potential trade-offs in ecosystem function and estimated yields for different management systems. Current fishing gear and area restrictions are not achieving conservation targets (proposed here as standing stock biomass of 1150 kg/ha) and result in losses of life history and ecological functions. Fish in reefs where destructive gears were restricted typically had very similar biomass and functions to young and low compliance closures. This indicates the potentially important role of fisheries restrictions in providing some gains in biomass and associated ecological functions when fully protected area enforcement potential is limited and likely to fail. Our results indicate that biomass alone can provide broad ecosystem-based fisheries management targets that can be easily applied even where research capacity and information is limited. Of particular value, is our finding that current management tools may be used to reach key ecosystem-based management targets, enabling ecosystem-based management in many socioeconomic contexts.

Item ID: 41925
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1523-1739
Keywords: ecosystem function, Indian Ocean, life-history traits, resource management, sustainable fisheries, wilderness
Funders: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 18:22
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
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