Size-weight relationships for estimating harvestable biomass of Acropora corals on Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Pacey, Kai I., Caballes, Ciemon F., and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2022) Size-weight relationships for estimating harvestable biomass of Acropora corals on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Marine Environmental Research, 177. 105633.

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Although hard corals (order Scleractinia) are listed in Appendix II of the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), there is significant ongoing wild harvest and international trade, mostly for the aquarium industry. Acropora corals account for the majority of aquarium corals harvested and traded, but are also extremely vulnerable to fisheries-independent threats, especially climate-induced coral bleaching. Reconciling effects of coral harvesting is complicated as harvest limits are based on weight, while there is limited data on standing biomass of Acropora from different reef environments. Here, a management-friendly methodology that allows for quantification of Acropora spp. biomass is described and demonstrated, thus providing means for the development and implementation of a rigorous sustainable harvest strategy. We establish size-weight relationships for four growth forms of Acropora spp. harvested from Australia's Great Barrier Reef, to facilitate estimates of harvestable biomass and better understand the ecological context of current weight-based harvest levels and limits. Using these relationships, and field-based sampling at 12 sites across seven distinct reefs, the estimated biomass of Acropora spp. ranges from 0.12 kg ⋅ m−2 to 4.7 kg ⋅ m−2. These estimates necessitate further consideration of catch composition and the specific abundance of individual species that are heavily harvested, and how impacts of current harvest practices interact with species-specific vulnerability to climate change and other escalating human pressures contributing to the degradation of coral reef ecosystems. This study is a crucial first step towards quantifying the ecological impacts of the fishery to develop management strategies that are underpinned by research.

Item ID: 74511
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-0291
Keywords: Coral biomass, Coral harvest fishery, Coral reefs, Ecosystem management, Fisheries management, Marine ecology, Tropical
Copyright Information: © 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2022 02:53
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
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