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Study says 'middle class' coral reef fish feel the economic squeeze
Date:2/10/2009

The economy isn't just squeezing the middle class on land, it's also affecting fish.

According to a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other organizations, researchers discovered a surprising correlation between "middle class" communities in Eastern Africa and low fish levels. Curiously, areas with both low and high socio-economic levels had comparatively higher fish levels.

Appearing in the latest edition of Current Biology, the study examined reef systems, human population densities, and socio-economics among villages in 30 fished and unfished study sites in five countries along Africa's Indian Ocean coast.

The study is by Josh Cinner of James Cook University (JCU), Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Tim Daw of the University of East Anglia, Nick Graham of JCU, Joseph Maina of WCS, and Shaun Wilson and Terry Hughes of JCU.

In a comparison between villages, researchers found that communities with intermediate levels of infrastructure had the lowest fish levels in their adjacent reef systemsup to four times lower than sites of low and high levels of development.

"This is a significant finding on how socio-economics can influence reef fisheries in surprising ways," said Dr. Tim McClanahan, a WCS coral researcher and co-author of the study. "It also shows the importance of combining ecology with social science for conservation planning on a regional scale."

The explanation, said researchers, lies in the interplay between traditional customs and how growth influences the social fabric of communities. In poor communities, many of which rely heavily on marine resources, fishing levels are kept in check by local cultural institutions and taboos and a reliance on traditional, low-tech fishing methods. Increases in wealth often reduce a community's dependence on fishing, but it can also increase the number of motorized fishing vessels and fishing gear such as ha
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
Source:Eurekalert  

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