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Scripps leads first global snapshot of key coral reef fishes
Date:12/4/2013

t. Without herbivores, weedy algae can take over the reef landscape. We need to focus more on protecting this key group of fishes around the globe if we hope to have healthy and productive reefs in the future."

"While these reef fish are not generally commercial fisheries targets," said Edwards, "there is clear evidence from this study that fishing is impacting their populations globally." Edwards, a UC San Diego graduate, recently completed his Masters thesis at Scripps where he said his experience and the opportunities he was given to conduct research were unparalleled.

The researchers also found that fishing alters the entire structure of the herbivore fish community, reducing the numbers of large-bodied feeding groups such as "grazers" and "excavators" while boosting numbers of smaller species such as algae-farming territorial damselfishes that enhance damaging algae growth.

"These results show that fished reefs may be lacking the ability to provide specific functions needed to sustain reef health," said Edwards.

"We are shifting the herbivore community from one that's dominated by large-bodied individuals to one that's dominated by many small fish," said Smith. "The biomass is dramatically altered. If you dive in Jamaica you are going to see lots of tiny herbivores because fishers remove them before they reach adulthood. In contrast, if you go to an unfished location in the central Pacific the herbivore community is dominated by large roving parrotfishes and macroalgal grazers that perform many important ecosystem services for reefs."

The authors argue that such evidence from their assessment should be used in coral reef management and conservation, offering regional managers data to show whether key herbivores are fished down too low and when they've successfully recovered in marine protected areas.

"This assessment allows us to set management goals in different regions across the globe," said Smith. "Regio
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Contact: Mario Aguilera
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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