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Rapid declines across Australian fishery stocks indicate global sustainability targets will not be achieved without an expanded network of ‘no-fishing’ reserves

Citation

Edgar, GJ and Ward, TJ and Stuart-Smith, RD, Rapid declines across Australian fishery stocks indicate global sustainability targets will not be achieved without an expanded network of no-fishing' reserves, Aquatic Conservation, 28, (6) pp. 1337-1350. ISSN 1052-7613 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1002/aqc.2934

Abstract

1. A continuing debate between environmental scientists and fisheries biologists on the sustainability of fisheries management practices, and the extent of fishing impacts on marine ecosystems, is unlikely to be resolved without fishery‐independent data spanning large geographic and temporal scales. Here, we compare continental‐ and decadal‐scale trends in fisheries catches with underwater reef monitoring data for 533 sites around Australia, and find matching evidence of rapid fish‐stock declines.

2. Regardless of a high global ranking for fisheries sustainability, catches from Australian wild fisheries decreased by 31% over the past decade. The biomass of large fishes observed on underwater transects decreased significantly over the same period on fished reefs (36% decline) and in marine park zones that allow limited fishing (18% decline), but with a negligible overall change in no‐fishing marine reserves. Populations of exploited fishes generally rose within marine reserves and declined outside the reserves, whereas unexploited species showed little difference in population trends within or outside reserves.

3. Although changing climate and more precautionary fisheries management contribute to declining fish catches, fisheries‐independent transect data suggest that excessive fishing also plays a major role.

4. The large number of fishery stocks that remain unmanaged or have poor data, coupled with continuing declines in the stock biomass of managed fish species, indicate that Aichi Target 6 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (i.e. ‘by 2020, all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably’) will not be achieved in Australia, or elsewhere.

5. In order to maintain some naturally functioning food webs supported by large predators and associated ecosystem services in this era of changing climate, a greatly expanded network of effective, fully protected marine protected areas is needed that encompasses global marine biodiversity. The present globally unbalanced situation, with >98% of seas open to some form of fishing, deserves immediate multinational attention.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Reef Life Survey, long-term monitoring, reef fish, citizen science, fisheries sustainability
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Ecosystem Assessment and Management
Objective Field:Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments
UTAS Author:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
UTAS Author:Stuart-Smith, RD (Dr Rick Stuart-Smith)
ID Code:127345
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2018-07-23
Last Modified:2019-03-15
Downloads:0

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