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Marine ecological footprint indicates unsustainability of the Pohnpei (Micronesia) coral reef fishery

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 July 2014

KEVIN L. RHODES*
Affiliation:
University of Hawaii at Hilo, College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, 200 W Kawili Street, Hilo 96720, Hawaii, USA
KIMBERLEY A. WARREN-RHODES
Affiliation:
SETI Institute/NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
SCOTT SWEET
Affiliation:
TerraUnda, PO Box 229, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental 6200, Philippines
MIKE HELGENBERGER
Affiliation:
Office of Fisheries and Aquaculture, PO Box B, Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 96941, Micronesia
EUGENE JOSEPH
Affiliation:
Conservation Society of Pohnpei, PO Box 2461, Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941, Micronesia
LINDA NG BOYLE
Affiliation:
University of Washington, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
KEVIN D. HOPKINS
Affiliation:
University of Hawaii at Hilo, College of Forestry, Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, 200 W Kawili Street, Hilo 96720, Hawaii, USA
*
*Correspondence: Dr Kevin Rhodes Tel: +1 512 638 5997 e-mail: klrhodes_grouper@yahoo.com

Summary

Throughout the tropics, developing countries and territories are highly dependent on nearshore marine resources for food and income, however information on the sustainability and proper management of these fisheries is lacking. In Pohnpei, Micronesia, the sustainability of a coral reef finfishery was assessed by comparing coral reef fish demand to coral reef biocapacity using a marine ecological footprint (MEF) analysis. Based on geo-referenced satellite and aerial imagery, Pohnpei and surrounding atolls have 184.2 km2 of coral reef habitat with a sustainable finfish yield of 573–1118 t yr−1, however total harvest was estimated at 4068 t yr−1, exceeding biocapacity by 360–710%. The MEF was supported by observed impacts to coral reef resources, including (1) long-term declines in fish spawning aggregation density, (2) reductions in mean size, age and fecundity of key commercial species, (3) reliance on undersized fish, and (4) decadal declines in mean size and abundance of fishes of iconic value and critical to ecosystem maintenance. The commercial fishery was responsible for 68% of finfish catch volume, while reef fish consumption, at 93 kg person−1 yr−1, was among the highest in the region. To sustainably meet current demand, up to 833 km2 of additional reef area would be required. The study illustrates the MEF, at least rudimentarily, reflects biological reality on local reefs and represents a valuable analytical tool in a marine policymaker's toolbox.

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Copyright
Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2014 

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