Profitable Coral Reef Fisheries Require Light Fishing

January 13th, 2017 No comments
  • Study finds that most valuable predatory fish in reef systems can only survive with modest catch quotas
  • Fisheries need sensible management to remain productive



New York (January 12, 2017) – Fishing is fundamentally altering the food chain in coral reefs and putting dual pressures on the valuable top-level predatory fish, according to new research by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Lancaster University, and other organizations.

Fish that sit at the top of the food chain, such as such as snapper and groupers, are highly sought-after in restaurants the world over, commanding a high price in fish markets and supporting fishing communities across the tropics, but maintaining them may be challenged by the complexity of the coral reef food web, according to a newly published study titled “Human disruption of coral reef trophic structure” in the journal Current Biology.

“Given the fragile state of the world’s coral reefs it is important to understand how human activity such as fishing impacts upon coral reef ecology,” said lead author Nick Graham of the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University. “Our study has shown these top-level predatory fish are only likely to be viable in overall lightly fished reefs, for example the Great Barrier Reef. To both conserve these top-of-the-food-chain fish, and to maintain fisheries for them, overall fish biomass on the coral reef needs to remain high.

Studying a large array of reefs in the Indian Ocean, the researchers found that reef food webs are altered in ways that can undermine valued species by bottom-up losses of available food as much as the top-down forces of fishing. These predators feed on other moderately sought fisheries species, such as parrotfish and surgeonfish, which appear both slow to recover from fishing but are also replaced by sea urchins as grazers, which are not the prey of these valued predators.

Consequently, replacing fish at the bottom of the food web with sea urchins may bolster the mid-tier species of fish but at a cost to the most prized predators. Fisheries in these situations struggle to maintain their preferred catch and pricey yields. The ecosystem is fundamentally altered in ways that may undermine the potential to recover their value.

The team also found that an hourglass food web shape emerges in what is frequently predicted to be an ecosystem pyramid, implying that energy in the ecosystem may accumulate at the top of the food chain by high productivity but low biomass of the mid-tier predators. This suggests lightly fished systems support these valuable top-level fish if lightly fished but fishing lower in the food chain can cause a collapse of the top tier predators. This is also most likely to occur when these mid-tier predators are fished and when herbivorous fish are replaced by sea urchins at the bottom of the food chain. Sea urchins proliferate when their mid-tier predators are fished even lightly.

These ecological insights cast a new light on how to manage tropical fisheries and policies for maintaining intact food webs, filling an important gap in our understanding of fisheries targets on coral reefs.

“Previous research by our team has identified target levels of biomass which sustain fisheries for a diverse array of species, while maintaining ecosystem structure. This current work identifies a higher target for fisheries that aim to target predatory fish and focus on high value fisheries,” said Dr. Tim McClanahan, Senior Conservation Zoologist of WCS and a study co-author. “Key to these targets is the objective of maintaining the ecosystem at the same time as supporting fisheries and livelihoods.”

“Understanding how humans alter energy flows within coral reefs gives us another tool for deciding how much fish we can safely take for ourselves,” said Dr. Aaron MacNeil of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and Dalhousie University. “And by accounting for the energy stored in the system, we can choose to allocate effort to different parts of the food web and maximize overall catch and function.”

McClanahan added: “Millions of people in coastal communities around the world rely on natural resources from coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Studies such as this one that determine how much fishing these ecosystems can sustain are more important than ever if we are to keep coral reefs fully functional for sustainable use.”

Organizational partners in the study are: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Australia; Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine Programs, Bronx, USA; Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia; Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; Department of Parks and Wildlife, Kensington, Perth, Australia; School of Plant Biology, Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Australia.

The research was supported by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Australian Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Royal Society.


WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing capital for the social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy; the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago; and generating new knowledge about critical issues.


January 12th, 2017 No comments

The World Aquaculture Society (WAS), the Aquaculture Association of Southern African Africa is hosting the annual World Aquaculture Conference in Africa for the first time June 26-30, 2017. African sponsorship and support is being provided by the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, AU-IBAR and WorldFish. In order to accommodate broader participation, the Abstract Deadline has been extended to 1 FEBRUARY 2017.

Interested persons and organisations are encouraged to submit Abstracts and approach the Programme Committee if they have special requests for sessions and meetings.

For Abstract submission details, please see:

Invited speaker profiles can be viewed at:

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Call for Applications: Danielle De St. Jorre Scholarship

January 9th, 2017 No comments

In memory of Danielle de St. Jorre, applications and nominations are invited for a scholarship to help fund the participation of a woman from a Small Island Developing State in IOI’s training programme on Ocean Governance: Policy, Law and Management, to be held from 24th May to 21st July 2017 at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

See for more details: Download the full announcement. 

Application deadline: 29th January 2017!

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Coral Communities in the Seychelles in Spring 2017: 2 x Fully Funded Training opportunities available

January 8th, 2017 No comments


Earthwatch will be running two Training Teams on our Coral Communities in the Seychelles Project from Team 1 18th – 29th April 2017 and Team 2 25th April – 6th May 2017.

Please note that team 1 is for experienced scuba divers only and is a field based skills training programme. Team 2 is open to all candidates and is a social science research programme which does not include any in-water activities. All research is conducted on land only.

Team 1 will be based on Curieuse Island and will involve collecting and analysing data from within the marine park carrying out in-water surveys. There are three spaces available on this team and the successful candidates will be joined by business employees from Mitsubishi Corporation and other experienced local or international scuba divers working in conservation, research or tourism. This will be a very international team and an excellent opportunity to connect with a truly diverse group of individuals coming from a variety of backgrounds.

Team 2 will be based on Praslin Island and will bring together early career conservationists, environmentalists and researchers from within the African and Indian Ocean region looking to hone their research management and delivery skills. There will be no in-water activities on this project.

 This training is part of Earthwatch’ Capacity Development Programme which aims to deliver relevant training to local conservationists in Africa, Asia and Middle East. We are keen this year to select mostly local (Seychellois) candidates.

Please download and read the following:

*Two project summaries of trainings for team 1 and team 2

*A Nomination Form for team 1 and team 2 (to be completed by the nominator)

*A letter for team 1 and team 2 outlining what is included in the award

Earthwatch will cover the cost of the travel to the project.

Please kindly return your nomination forms to by 30th January 2017.

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Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science,Vol 15, No 1 is out!

January 8th, 2017 No comments
Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science has just published its latest issue at We invite you to view the Table of Contents below and then visit our web site to access articles and items of interest.

Call for proposals for short-term taxonomic research grants in Belgium (GTI National Focal Point)

January 4th, 2017 No comments

The Belgian National Focal Point to the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) are happy to inform you that the 2017 Belgian GTI external call for proposals is open!

Scientists from the partner developing countries of the Belgian Development cooperation (see list below) can apply for a short-term grant to come to Belgium in 2017 for taxonomic training and access to collections!

The 2017 call aims at funding short-term visits in Belgium for students or young researchers (<40 years old) in order to help building their scientific and technical expertise on biodiversity and ecosystem services and/or access collections in Belgium.

Eligible countries: Algeria – Benin* – Burkina Faso* – Burundi* – Cabo Verde – Cambodia – Cote d’Ivoire – DR Congo* – Gambia – Ghana – Guinea* – Guinea Bissau – Kenya – Laos – Liberia – Mali* – Morocco* – Mozambique* – Niger* – Nigeria – Palestinian Territory* – Rwanda* – Senegal* – Sierra Leone – Tanzania* – Thailand – Togo – Uganda* – Vietnam.

Priority will be given to projects taking place in countries belonging to the 14 priority partner countries of the Belgian governmental cooperation (with an asterisk in the above list).

It is very important that applicants clearly state in their application: – How they plan to use their projects to advance rresearch in their field; – How they will disseminatte their results (poster, oral communication, teaching,etc); – How their project will contribute to the consservation of biodiversity and/or ecosystem services in their country; – How their project could (in a long oor medium term) contribute to fight against poverty in the South.

Applications must be submitted online before 19 February 2017.

More information regarding the call and online application form can be found on our website here:

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December Issue of WIOMSA Newsbrief is out!

December 22nd, 2016 No comments

The fourth issue of the WIOMSA Newsbrief for 2016 is out and contains several interesting articles some of which are on the Nairobi Convention events organized jointly with WIOMSA and WIOMSA’s events such as evaluation of the MASMA Programme; MASMA Grantees meeting and the Board meeting. Also included are articles of new collaboration between WIOMSA and the National Marine Biodiversity Institute of Korea (MABIK) and the upcoming book on the Nansen Programme. Articles on MARG projects, events organized by WIOMSA’s partners and new publications are also included.

Thanks for all the support in 2016. We wish you all Merry Christmas and the very best and a peaceful 2016.

Download the full issue.

Coral Communities in the Seychelles – Training Opportunities

November 20th, 2016 No comments

The Earthwatch (an international NGO based in the UK – ) will again be running two training teams (Teams 1 & 2) on coral reef conservation monitoring and community research programme, Coral Communities in the Seychelles Project in in April/May 2017.

The exact dates are yet to be confirmed but we will be sending out the confirmed dates and further detailed information about these opportunities and application forms next month. Please share this information with your networks where appropriate and anyone who you may like to nominate. If you would like to receive further information about the application process, please get in touch with me directly. The deadline for submissions will be in January.

These are fully funded fellowship places (including travel to and from the site) open to early career conservationists and would be of interest to students and/or staff members looking to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Team 1 will be based on Curieuse Island and will involve collecting and analysing data from within the marine park. There are three spaces available on this team and the successful candidates will be joined by a mix of corporate employees from Mitsubishi Corporation, early career conservationists and divers from within the Indian Ocean Region. This is an excellent opportunity for any accomplished diver and keen conservationist to develop hands-on field research skills within a marine environment.  It is also a great opportunity to connect with a truly diverse and international group of individuals coming from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.

On Team 2 the research focuses on the socio-economic aspects of the programme and looks at the effects that climate change and unsustainable fishing has on local coastal communities. The team  will be based on Praslin Island in the Seychelles and will bring together early career conservationists and environmentalists from within the African and Indian Ocean region looking to hone their research management and delivery skills from a social sciences perspective. This training is part of Earthwatch’ Capacity Development Programme which aims to deliver relevant training to local conservationists in Africa, Asia and Middle East.

If you are interested in learning more about these training places and would like to receive further information please contact, Katherine McGavin (

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IOI Training Programme on Ocean Governance: Policy, Law and Management 2017

November 11th, 2016 No comments

The International Ocean Institute (IOI) is pleased to announce its annual Training Programme on Ocean Governance: Policy, Law and Management that will be held in Dalhousie, Canada from 24th May – 21st July, 2017.

The application deadline is 1st January 2017.

Download the Course Announcement and the application form. For more information about the training, please visit,

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Exeter International Excellence Scholarship for Postgraduate Research Ref: 2461

November 2nd, 2016 No comments

Exeter University in United Kingdom are offering up to 20 PhD scholarships for international students.

See details below and in this link:

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