Study: Not Too Late to Restore Reef Fisheries

May 24, 2018

Credit Kosta Stamoulis

It’s not too late to restore reef fisheries that have been overfished.

That’s according to a recent study from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

Researchers used field and survey data, along with fishing patterns, to develop “seascape models” – to identify key habitats that support abundant coastal fishery stocks. Specifically looking at fish that are caught and eaten by local fishermen.

The models were then used to simulate what would happen if there were no fishing in those habitats. Researchers took into account habitat conditions and potential changes.

The results revealed fish stocks could increase by more than 500 percent on average in several areas on Oahu. It also revealed areas with the highest recovery potential for reef fisheries on each island.

Kosta Stamoulis is a Doctoral Candidate at Curtin University in Australia, and lead author of the study.

He says the following areas have the highest recovery potential in the state.

The models also showed that areas located in rural parts of the north shores of all islands are not heavily fished, have high quality habitats and support abundant stocks of reef fish.

Credit Pacific islands Fisheries Science Group

Stamoulis says managing these areas is just as important as restoration and management efforts - because fish larvae and adults from healthy habitats can help overfished areas recover.

The study will be used by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources as they conduct a statewide analysis of nearshore waters. The DLNR's analysis is part of the state's ambitious goal of effectively managing 30 percent of Hawaiʻi's nearshore waters by 2030. 

Bruce Anderson, administrator of the DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources, says the information from UH's study will be combined "with local knowledge and collaboratively identify what to do in management focus areas."