Overfishing can harm reef ecosystems by removing fish that perform essential functions in the ecosystem and/or by removing mature fish that are reproducing. When too many herbivorous fish are harvested, reefs become overgrown with macroalgae (seaweed). Instead, if local fisheries are managed well, they can be sustainable over the long term and benefit the community. Well-managed fisheries also attract more divers (who can see more fish and more diverse fish, including sharks, on the reefs), providing another source of sustainable income for the community.
Establish Marine Protected Areas
One way CORAL works to create more sustainable fisheries is by helping communities set up or improve management of marine protected areas (MPAs) or reserves, in which certain types of fish are protected, able to grow to a larger size, and reproduce more prolifically. This ultimately leads to more sustainable fish populations. MPAs can sometimes allow for a certain (sustainable) level of fishing by locals. Such reserves also help preserve local biodiversity and ecosystem services. A study published in Current Biology (Dispersal of Grouper Larvae Drives Local Resource Sharing in a Coral Reef Fishery, Almany, et al., 2013) found that well-managed MPAs can help boost fish populations not only in the protected area but also in surrounding waters. A study in PLOS One found that the value of these reserves—enhanced adjacent fishing and tourism—exceeds the pre-reserve value and that the economic benefits can offset the initial costs of the reserve in as little as five years (Sala, et al. 2013).
CORAL is also working to establish larger, regional-scale networks of protected areas or locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) and to ensure that these networks are adequately protected and patrolled. And since sharks are an integral part of a healthy coral reef ecosystem, we also work with communities to protect them and increase awareness of their benefits.