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Most Predatory Fish Gone from Caribbean Coral Reefs

Abel Valdivia - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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March 11, 2017
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Caribbean reef sharks prowling in the Bahamas (Neil Hammerschlag)

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that up to 90 percent of predatory fish are gone from Caribbean coral reefs, straining the ocean ecosystem and coastal economy. The good news? They identified reefs, known as supersites, which can support large numbers of predator fishes that if reintroduced, can help restore the environmental and economic setback inflicted by overfishing.

The work, led by former UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Abel Valdivia working with John Bruno, a marine biologist at UNC College of Arts & Sciences, suggests that these supersites - reefs with many nooks and crannies on its surface that act as hiding places for prey (and attract predators) - should be prioritized for protection and could serve as regional models showcasing the value of biodiversity for tourism and other uses. Other features that make a supersite are amount of available food, size of reef and proximity to mangroves.

"On land, a supersite would be a national park like Yellowstone, which naturally supports an abundance of varied wildlife and has been protected by the federal government," said Bruno, whose work appears in the March 1 issue of Science Advances.

The team surveyed 39 reefs across the Bahamas, Cuba, Florida, Mexico and Belize, both inside and outside marine reserves, to determine how much fish had been lost by comparing fish biomass on pristine sites to fish biomass on a typical reef. They estimated the biomass in each location and found that 90 percent of predatory fish were gone due to overfishing.

What they didn't expect to find was a ray of hope - a small number of reef locations that if protected could substantially contribute to the recovery of predatory fish populations and help restore depleted species.

Read the rest at EurekAlert!

  Check out Deep Blue Conservancy

  Check out The Western Ecological Society

  Check out Ecological Group of Costa Verde

  Check out Association for Environmental Unity in Mexico


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