Grouper, Local Fisheries & Marine Protected Areas

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Day 5 of our underwater journey continues with groupers, local fisheries and marine protected areas.

Five hundred million people around the world depend on reef fish and other animals for food and income. In addition to providing a significant source of protein for up to a billion people, coral reef fish support commercial and artisanal fisheries and serve as a key tourist attraction. By one estimate, the coral reef global fishing and tourism industries are worth four hundred billion dollars each year. Many fish populations around the world, however, are overfished. Overfishing can harm reef ecosystems by removing fish that perform essential functions—for example, when too many herbivorous fish are harvested, reefs become overgrown with macroalgae (seaweed).

Overfishing can also harm the communities that depend on reefs for income. Groupers are one type of fish that can be sold for a high value and given such, many species of groupers are overfished. Groupers naturally come together to spawn and such a fish aggregation can be very easy to harvest. Creating well-managed local fisheries helps fish populations like the grouper to recover after harvesting events and ensures that local communities can earn income over the long term.

One way we work to create more sustainable fisheries is by the creation of marine protected areas (MPAs), which are locations in which some (or all) types of fishing are banned. Over time and within an MPA, fish populations are able to increase and some fish will inevitably move out of the restricted area. In addition, fish within the MPA grow older and larger—they become “BOFFFS” (which actually is a real term used among researches that stands for “big old fat fecund female fishes), which produce more and better young. In these two ways, MPAs can help fish populations increase outside the MPA.

Realizing the benefits of an MPA, however, requires that the MPA is effectively managed—that there are adequate staff to enforce regulations and they have the financial resources to support management activities. Check back tomorrow to continue your underwater journey and learn about a successful self-sustaining MPA and, on November 29, celebrate #GivingTuesday with us and #GiveToReefs.

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