Historical spatial reconstruction of a spawning-aggregation fishery
© 2017 Society for Conservation Biology
Reason for embargo
Under embargo until 10th August 2018 in compliance with publisher policy
Aggregations of individual animals that form for breeding purposes are a critical ecological processfor many species, yet these aggregations are inherently vulnerable to exploitation. Studies of the decline ofexploited populations that form breeding aggregations tend to focus on catch rate and thus often overlookreductions in geographic range. We tested the hypothesis that catch rate and site occupancy of exploited fish-spawning aggregations (FSAs) decline in synchrony over time. We used the Spanish mackerel (Scomberomoruscommerson) spawning-aggregation fishery in the Great Barrier Reef as a case study. Data were compiled fromhistorical newspaper archives, fisher knowledge, and contemporary fishery logbooks to reconstruct catchrates and exploitation trends from the inception of the fishery. Our fine-scale analysis of catch and effort dataspanned 103 years (1911–2013) and revealed a spatial expansion of fishing effort. Effort shifted offshore at arate of 9.4 nm/decade, and 2.9 newly targeted FSAs were reported/decade. Spatial expansion of effort maskedthe sequential exploitation, commercial extinction, and loss of 70% of exploited FSAs. After standardizing forimprovements in technological innovations, average catch rates declined by 90.5% from 1934 to 2011 (from119.4 to 11.41 fish/vessel/trip). Mean catch rate of Spanish mackerel and occupancy of exploited mackerelFSAs were not significantly related. Our study revealed a special kind of shifting spatial baseline in which acontraction in exploited FSAs occurred undetected. Knowledge of temporally and spatially explicit informationon FSAs can be relevant for the conservation and management of FSA species.
S.B., R.T., andJ.P. were supported by the Australian Research Council(ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation(project 2013-018). A.T. and S.B. were supported by funding from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (project 2010-007) on behalf of the Australian Government.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol 31, No. 6, 1322–1332