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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 612:167-192 (2019)  -  DOI:

Global baselines and benchmarks for fish biomass: comparing remote reefs and fisheries closures

Tim R. McClanahan1,*, Robert E. Schroeder2, Alan M. Friedlander3,4, Laurent Vigliola5, Laurent Wantiez6, Jennifer E. Caselle7, Nicholas A. J. Graham8, Shaun Wilson9,10, Graham J. Edgar11, Rick D. Stuart-Smith11, Remy M. Oddenyo12, J. E. Cinner13

1Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine Programs, Bronx, NY 10460, USA
2National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA
3Pristine Seas, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC 20036, USA
4Fisheries Ecology Research Lab, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
5Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UMR ENTROPIE, Laboratoire Excellence LABEX Corail, 98851 Noumea, New Caledonia, France
6Institut De Sciences Exactes Et Appliquées (ISEA), EA7484, University of New Caledonia, 98851 Noumea, New Caledonia, France
7Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
8Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK
9Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions, Kensington, WA 6151, Australia
10Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
11Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
12Wildlife Conservation Society, Coral Reef Conservation Program, Mombasa 80107, Kenya
13Australian Research Council, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Baselines and benchmarks (B&Bs) are needed to evaluate the ecological status and fisheries potential of coral reefs. B&Bs may depend on habitat features and energetic limitations that constrain biomass within the natural variability of the environment and fish behaviors. To evaluate if broad B&Bs exist, we compiled data on the biomass of fishes in ~1000 reefs with no recent history of fishing in 19 ecoregions. These reefs spanned the full longitude and latitude of Indian and Pacific Ocean reefs and included older high-compliance fisheries closures (>15 yr closure) and remote reef areas (>9 h travel time from fisheries markets). There was no significant change in biomass over the 15 to 48 yr closure period but closures had only ~40% of the biomass (740 kg ha-1, lower confidence interval [LCI] = 660 kg ha-1, upper confidence interval [UCI] = 810 kg ha-1, n = 157) of remote tropical reefs (1870 [1730, 2000] kg ha-1, n = 503). Remote subtropical reefs had lower biomass (950 [860, 1040] kg ha-1, n = 329) than tropical reefs. Closures and remote reef fish biomass responded differently to environmental variables of coral cover, net primary productivity, and light, indicating that remote reefs are more limited by productivity and habitat than closures. Closures in fished seascapes are unlikely to achieve the biomass and community composition of remote reefs, which suggests fisheries benchmarks will differ substantially from wilderness baselines. A fishery benchmark (B0) of ~1000 kg ha-1 adjusted for geography is suggested for fisheries purposes. For ecological purposes, a wilderness baseline of ~1900 kg ha-1 is appropriate for including large and mobile species not well protected by closures.

KEY WORDS: Baselines · Coral reef fish · Fisheries and ecological indicators · Pristine or virgin biomass · Sustainability

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Cite this article as: McClanahan TR, Schroeder RE, Friedlander AM, Vigliola L and others (2019) Global baselines and benchmarks for fish biomass: comparing remote reefs and fisheries closures. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 612:167-192.

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