The team investigated the effects of five main types of gear on different types of fish: spear guns, traps, hook and line, beach seine nets and gill nets.
They found that spear guns were the most damaging of all to corals themselves, to susceptible fish species and to the fish needed to help reefs recover, such as parrot, surgeon and trigger fish, which keep seaweeds and urchins in check while the coral re-grows.
"Spear guns target a high proportion of species that help maintain the resilience of coral reefs, but also can result in a surprising amount of damage to the corals themselves. When a fish is shot with a spear gun, it often hides in the reef, so some fishermen break the corals in their attempts to get it." Dr Cinner says.
But in developing countries, spear guns can be the fishing tool most used by the poorest fishers because they are cheap to make and the yield can be high, so they are an important source of income for poor fishers.
"You can't simply impose an arbitrary ban on their use you need to consider issues like compensation, other fishing options, or alternative livelihoods for the affected fishers," says co-author Dr. Shaun Wilson of the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation. "One key issue may be educating fishers about the importance of reef habitat and the species that help to maintain reef quality and the need to be selective in what they shoot. This would mean fishers could still use this cheap and effective fishing tool without necessarily damaging habitat and reef resilience."
Fish traps also targeted both the
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Wildlife Conservation Society