MEPS prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12388

Coupling remote sensing with in situ surveys to determine reef fish habitat associations for the design of marine protected areas

Whitney Goodell*, Kostantinos A. Stamoulis, Alan M. Friedlander

*Email: goodell7@hawaii.edu

ABSTRACT: Nearshore fish populations are in decline in the main Hawaiian Islands, and effective, sustainable management is needed. There has been increasing emphasis on the value of ecosystem-based management and the conservation of essential fish habitat, but policy is encumbered by a lack of supporting information. This project integrates science and technology with traditional knowledge to identify juvenile fish habitats, and to provide a basis for effective resource management in a rural Hawaiian community. Building on existing local knowledge of nearshore resources, we quantitatively assessed juvenile fish-habitat associations. We conducted fine-scale in situ ecological surveys of juvenile reef fishes and their habitats, and produced detailed benthic habitat maps using GIS and interpretation of satellite imagery, from which we extracted multi-scale seascape variables. Canonical correspondence analysis was used to assess fish-habitat relationships at multiple scales. Depth, coral cover, structural complexity, scattered rock and coral habitat, and distance to shore emerged as primary factors associated with juvenile reef fish abundance. We identified the habitat associations of two important food resource species in the study area of Hā‘ena, Kaua‘i, the convict tang (Acanthurus triostegus sandvicensis, an endemic subspecies) and the redlip parrotfish (Scarus rubroviolaceus). Results from this study played an important role in the successful approval of the Hā‘ena community-based fishery management plan by the state governing agency. We argue that an ecosystem-based co-management approach, informed by conventional survey methods, remote sensing technology, and traditional knowledge, can help to ensure the sustainability of fisheries worldwide.