Coral-reef fisheries play a central role in Pacific Island societies for their cultural, subsistence and economic values. Despite their importance, management of coral reef fisheries continues to be hampered by difficulties in estimating accurate fish landings. This study focuses upon both commercial and non-commercial reef-fish landings in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), using existing and new datasets derived from catch-based records and household interviews. We found that previous estimations of CNMI’s non-commercial reef-fish landings were rooted in a common misinterpretation of a key historical study that led to very low reported contributions from the non-commercial reef-fishing sector. Present evidence introduced from socioeconomic surveys suggested that non-commercial fisheries were between five and nine times commercial counterparts in the mid-2000s. Further, we introduce new commercial landing datasets based upon required reporting to CNMI’s Nutritional Assistance Program that appeared to offer improved estimates of reef-fish landings compared with an existing voluntary reporting system that has been in place since the late 1970s. Using an influential anchor point in the 1950s, we synthesize that modern reef-fish landings in CNMI are, at best, similar to those conservatively estimated for the past, with more likely scenarios suggesting a 39–73 % decline since the 1950s. These findings are consistent with a body of literature suggesting reduced catch success through time and negative impacts to coral reefs in proximity to population centers. Ongoing data collection improvements are needed to ensure accurate assessments of CNMI’s coral-reef fishery and sound fisheries policies.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: May 11, 2014
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