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Fishing down the largest coral reef fish species
- Fenner, Douglas
- Marine pollution bulletin 2014 v.84 no.1-2 pp. 9-16
- Cheilinus undulatus, atolls, biomass, coral reefs, extinction, fauna, fish communities, humans, islands, parrots, people, predators, sharks, tourism, water pollution, Hawaii, Kiribati
- Studies on remote, uninhabited, near-pristine reefs have revealed surprisingly large populations of large reef fish. Locations such as the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, northern Marianas Islands, Line Islands, U.S. remote Pacific Islands, Cocos-Keeling Atoll and Chagos archipelago have much higher reef fish biomass than islands and reefs near people. Much of the high biomass of most remote reef fish communities lies in the largest species, such as sharks, bumphead parrots, giant trevally, and humphead wrasse. Some, such as sharks and giant trevally, are apex predators, but others such as bumphead parrots and humphead wrasse, are not. At many locations, decreases in large reef fish species have been attributed to fishing. Fishing is well known to remove the largest fish first, and a quantitative measure of vulnerability to fishing indicates that large reef fish species are much more vulnerable to fishing than small fish. The removal of large reef fish by fishing parallels the extinction of terrestrial megafauna by early humans. However large reef fish have great value for various ecological roles and for reef tourism.