New science-based fishery regulations are needed if
coral reefs are to have a future in the face of climate change. The
study shows that Caribbean coral reefs are experiencing mounting
pressure from global warming, local pollution and over-fishing
of herbivorous fish. An international team, led by University of
Queensland researchers, has found that tighter fishery regulations are
needed to preserve corals of the Caribbean.
Researcher Dr Yves-Marie Bozec, from UQ’s School of
Biological Sciences and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef
Studies, said herbivorous parrotfish were needed because they eat
seaweed, which can smother coral and prevent corals
“While several countries in the Caribbean have
taken the bold step of banning the fishing of parrotfish (including
Belize, Bonaire, Turks and Caicos Islands), parrotfish fisheries remain
in much of the region,” Dr Bozec said.
The research team analysed the effects of fishing
on parrotfish and combined this with an analysis of the role of
parrotfish on coral reefs.
“We conclude that unregulated fisheries will seriously reduce the resilience of coral reefs,” Dr Bozec said.
“However, implementation of size limits and catch
limits to less than 10 per cent of the fishable stock provide a far
better outlook for reefs, while also allowing the fishery to persist.”
Study co-author Professor Peter Mumby from UQ’s
School of Biological Sciences said a number of countries wanted to
modify their fisheries to reduce impacts on reefs. “What we’ve done is
identify fisheries’ policies that might help achieve
this,” Professor Mumby said.
The new study, published in the journal Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences today, argues that science should
be used to revise current fisheries practices for herbivorous fish in
The authors have provided tools to help fisheries managers make such changes.
“Ultimately, the more we do to maintain healthy
coral reefs, the more likely it is that fishers’ livelihoods will be
sustained into the future,” Professor Mumby said.
“We already know that failure to maintain coral habitats will lead to at least a threefold reduction in future fish catches.”