Giant coral reef fishes display markedly different susceptibility to night spearfishing

Pearse, Alan R., Hamilton, Richard J., Choat, John Howard, Pita, John, Almany, Glenn, Peterson, Nate, Hamilton, Grant S., and Peterson, Erin E. (2018) Giant coral reef fishes display markedly different susceptibility to night spearfishing. Ecology and Evolution, 8 (20). pp. 10247-10256.

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Abstract

The humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) and bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) are two of the largest, most iconic fishes of Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Both species form prized components of subsistence and commercial fisheries and are vulnerable to overfishing. C. undulatus is listed as Endangered and B. muricatum as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. We investigated how night spearfishing pressure and habitat associations affected both species in a relatively lightly exploited setting; the Kia fishing grounds, Isabel Province, Solomon Islands. We used fisheries-independent data from underwater visual census surveys and negative binomial models to estimate abundances of adult C. undulatus and B. muricatum as a function of spearfishing pressure and reef strata. Our results showed that, in Kia, night spearfishing pressure from free divers had no measurable effect on C. undulatus abundances, but abundances of B. muricatum were 3.6 times lower in areas of high spearfishing pressure, after accounting for natural variations due to habitat preferences. It is likely the species' different nocturnal aggregation behaviors, combined with the fishers' use of night spearfishing by spot-checking underpin these species' varying susceptibility. Our study highlights that B. muricatum is extremely susceptible to night spearfishing; however, we do not intend to draw conservation attention away from C. undulatus. Our data relate only to the Kia fishing grounds, where human population density is low, the spot-checking strategy is effective for reliably spearing large numbers of fish, particularly B. muricatum, and fisheries have only recently begun to be commercialized; such conditions are increasingly rare. Instead, we recommend that regional managers assess the state of their fisheries and the dynamics affecting the vulnerability of the fishes to fishing pressure based on local-scale, fisheries-independent data, where resources permit.

Item ID: 56267
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Keywords: bumphead parrotfish, humphead wrasse, night spearfishing, susceptibility
Copyright Information: © 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Funders: Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Projects and Grants: QUT Vacation Research Experience Scheme 2017, ADB TA-7753
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2018 07:56
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
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