Coral reef fishes differ in their intrinsic vulnerability to fishing and rates of population recovery after cessation of fishing. We reviewed life history-based predictions about the vulnerability of different groups of coral reef fish and examined the empirical evidence for different rates of population recovery inside no-take marine reserves to (1) determine if the empirical data agree with predictions about vulnerability and (2) show plausible scenarios of recovery within fully protected reserves and periodically-harvested fishery closures. In general, larger-bodied carnivorous reef fishes are predicted to be more vulnerable to fishing while smaller-bodied species lower in the food web (e.g., some herbivores) are predicted to be less vulnerable. However, this prediction does not always hold true because of the considerable diversity of life history strategies in reef fishes. Long-term trends in reef fish population recovery inside no-take reserves are consistent with broad predictions about vulnerability, suggesting that moderately to highly vulnerable species will require a significantly longer time (decades) to attain local carrying capacity than less vulnerable species. We recommend: (1) expanding age-based demographic studies of economically and ecologically important reef fishes to improve estimates of vulnerability; (2) long term (20–40 years), if not permanent, protection of no-take reserves to allow full population recovery and maximum biomass export; (3) strict compliance to no-take reserves to avoid considerable delays in recovery; (4) carefully controlling the timing and intensity of harvesting periodic closures to ensure long-term fishery benefits; (5) the use of periodically-harvested closures together with, rather than instead of, permanent no-take reserves.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 16, 2014
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