Understanding the decision-making process of fish when they escape from approaching spearfishers has a crucial role in elucidating the management conflicts in reef systems. Here, we used the Flight Initiation Distances – FID metric to assess how the management strategies, including fishing and tourism reef sites, could distinctively influence the escape behavior of the target reef fish. This work presents the differences in wariness of three reef fish species with a distinctive history of catches by spearfishing, Epinephelus adscensionis, Acanthurus bahianus, and Chaetodon striatus, in a multiple-use Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Brazilian Northeastern coast. Our findings demonstrate that the protection level has a consistent effect on wariness of the target species, but the use of tourism sites as a conservation strategy to fishing pressure could be controversial. Furthermore, the species-specific traits can clearly express how the risk perception varies among species and can simplify the understanding of flight measure results. Taken together with other data, e.g. quantitative data (biomass, abundance), changes in the fish behavior, such as escape decisions, may add important knowledge to the monitoring of marine protected areas, especially in the Brazilian coast where the effectiveness of these MPAs is often questioned. The use of FID measurements as a management tool could improve the monitoring policies in MPAs, and reveal reefs systems where human activities should be reduced or banned.
Ocean & Coastal Management – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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