Effects of habitat, fishing, and fisheries management on reef fish populations in Palau
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Effects of habitat, fishing, and fisheries management on reef fish populations in Palau

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  • Journal Title:
    Fisheries Research
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    Palau has a rich tradition of fisheries management and stewardship of its waters, and as in many island nations, small-scale coral reef fisheries are a vital part of the local culture, economy, and food security. However, reef fisheries in Palau are data-poor and there is increasing concern that reef fish stocks are declining. To evaluate the current and future status of these resources, information is needed on the abundance, biomass, and size structure of reef fish resource species. To this aim, the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) conducted a nation-wide study to investigate the status of commercially important reef fish stocks in 2017. Fishery-independent surveys were conducted by diver operated stereo-video (stereo-DOV) at 94 sites across the archipelago. Results showed that fish biomass varied from 0.13 to 293 g m−2. Habitat was the most significant predictor of fish biomass, with the highest biomass found at western fore-reef sites and the lowest at inner reef sites. Region also affected fish biomass, with significantly higher biomass found in the Northern Reefs compared to those around Babeldaob (the largest island in Palau). In channel habitats, marine protected area (MPA) proximity, fishing pressure from Koror (Palau’s main population center), and local fishing pressure significantly influenced fish biomass. In western fore-reef habitats, fish biomass was significantly affected by region, with differences observed between the Northern Reefs and Babeldaob, and between the Southern Reefs and Babeldaob. Fishing pressure from Koror had a significant effect on fish biomass in inner reef habitats, with a weak negative relationship observed. Using length frequencies from the stereo-DOV surveys we also estimated spawning potential ratio (SPR) for seven species and found the majority had SPR values between 20 % and 40 %. Overall, the low fish biomass and SPRs suggests that many of Palau’s principal fisheries species have been overexploited. This is the first study to evaluate the status of resource reef fish stocks across the main islands of Palau and provides a baseline to assess changes in fish populations over time.
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    Fisheries Research, 241, 105996
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    Accepted Manuscript
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