Coral Reefs

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 231-241

First online:

Kenyan coral reef lagoon fish: effects of fishing, substrate complexity, and sea urchins

  • T. R. McClanahanAffiliated withCoral Reef Conservation Project, The Wildlife Conservation Society

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Population density, number of species, diversity, and species-area relationships of fish species in eight common coral reef-associated families were studied in three marine parks receiving total protection from fishing, four sites with unregulated fishing, and one reef which recently received protection from fishing (referred to as a transition reef). Data on coral cover, reef topographic complexity, and sea urchin abundance were collected and correlated with fish abundance and species richness. The most striking result of this survey is a consistent and large reduction in the population density and species richness of 5 families (surgeonfish, triggerfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, and parrotfish). Poor recovery of parrotfish in the transition reef, relative to other fish families, is interpreted as evidence for competitive exclusion of parrotfish by sea urchins. Reef substrate complexity is significantly associated with fish abundance and diversity, but data suggest different responses for protected versus fished reefs, protected reefs having higher species richness and numbers of individuals than unprotected reefs for the same reef complexity. Sea urchin abundance is negatively associated with numbers of fish and fish species but the interrelationship between sea urchins, substrate complexity, coral cover, and management make it difficult to attribute a set percent of variance to each factor-although fishing versus no fishing appears to be the strongest variable in predicting numbers of individuals and species of fish, and their community similarity. Localized species extirpation is evident for many species on fished reefs (for the sampled area of 1.0 ha). Fifty-two of 110 species found on protected reefs were not found on unprotected reefs.