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Lab Member Fall 2003-Spring 2007
RESEARCH INTERESTS during lab tenure
“Marine reserves are advocated as strategies to protect reef fish stocks and promote marine conservation. Reserves are potentially useful because they can conserve and guard the ecological integrity of the reserve site while involving the community, increasing understanding of the ecosystem, and allowing an opportunity for reef fish stocks to achieve their full potential. To date, most reserve design scenarios have been largely drive by political motivations, rather than biological and societal needs. I focus on theN. Gulf of Californiaecoregion as a case study to develop conservation approaches that account for ecological and societal needs. In particular, I focus on predatory reef fishes and the sport fisheries that target them.
Recreational fishing effort in the Gulf of California is likely to continue as tourism from theUnited Statesincreases. Fishing for large reef fishes is a popular activity among tourists, yet the current impact of this fishery remains unacknowledged and the fishery remains entirely unregulated.
The objective of my project is to gather and analyze information on grouper and giant sea bass reproductive and ecosystem ecology. This knowledge is necessary to implement effective conservation measures in theNorthern Gulf of Californiaecoregion. Because current and increased levels of exploitation could negatively impactGulf of Californiafisheries and ecosystem health, we must also identify current levels of recreational fishing activity, and the impact of this fishery on vulnerable fish species. In particular, I propose to:
(1) Document locations and times of offshore spawning aggregations of groupers and giant sea bass in the Northern Gulf of California& the biological and physical characteristics of offshore reef ecosystems.
(2) Document fishing pressure on offshore aggregations of grouper and giant sea bass,
(3) Evaluate projected ecosystem impacts of continued and increased fishing efforts on vulnerable reef fish species, and
(4) Identify management strategies given knowledge about biological and social needs.
My project goals are critical in light of the urgent conservation status of reef fish in theNorthern Gulf of California. In particular, the gulf grouper (Mycteroperca jordani: family, Serranidae) is vulnerable to extinction according to the IUCN. Overfishing of the gulf grouper has already caused its depletion throughout the Gulf, and its presence is now restricted primarily to the N. Gulf region. Furthermore, the giant sea bass (Stereolepis gigas: family, Polyprionidae) is critically endangered and is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. The giant sea bass, while fully protected inCaliforniawaters, is offered no protection inMexico. The stocks of the giant sea bass in the N. Gulf are especially susceptible to fisheries pressure because of their disjunct distribution on a small number of reefs in the N. Gulf.
As top-level predators, groupers and giant sea bass play important roles in maintaining biodiversity of the reef ecosystems and in some cases may be acting as keystone species; their removal from reef habitats can result in trophic cascades, thereby negatively impacting the integrity of the reef ecosystem (Pauly, 1998; Coleman, 2002). Continued targeting of spawning aggregations of these species by recreational fishers could result in collapse of aggregations and population collapse, causing significant effects on N. Gulf reef ecosystems. Thus, this work could be vital for the long-term conservation of reef fish in theGulf of California.
It is the hope that these community based management efforts will bring about: more information on vulnerable reef fish populations, government mandated and enforced species specific protections, protection of vulnerable spawning aggregation sites, and more conscientious fishing practices by sport fishers.
Given the interdisciplinary nature of this project, diverse lab and field methods are being employed. Primarily, this project involves: community interviews, questionnaires, and workshops; port surveys of captured fishes; research diving; in situ environmental sampling, and analysis of historical data. Biological parameters and fishery-related socioeconomic parameters will be used to model optimal management strategies for threatened reef fish species using decision theory models and population viability analysis (PVA).”