, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 144-152

Reconstruction of coral reef fisheries catches in American Samoa, 1950–2002

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Fisheries catches from Pacific Island coral reefs are rarely recorded in official statistics. Reconstruction of catch estimates with limited hard data requires interpolation and assumptions, justifiable only by the unsatisfactory alternative of continued substitution of zero catches, a common policy interpretation for ‘no data’. Uncertainties associated with reconstructions are high, requiring conservative estimation. American Samoan domestic fisheries consist of an artisanal, small-boat sector, whose commercial catches are reported, and a shore-based subsistence sector, with no regular reporting. Our catch reconstruction (with large pelagic species removed) suggested a 79% decrease in catches between 1950 (752 t) and 2002 (155 t). Accounting for rapid human population growth on the main island, the per capita catch rate may have declined from 36.3 kg·person−1 year−1 in 1950 to 1.3 kg·person−1 year−1 by 2002, while the catch rate for the inhabited outer islands has been independently reported as 58.6 kg·person−1 year−1. Catch per area of coral reef (to 50-m depth) may have declined from 5.5 to 0.7 t km−2 year−1 for the main island, and from 9.1 to 4.9 t km−2 year−1 for the outer islands, for 1950 and 2002, respectively. Summed for 1950–2002, our reconstruction suggested a 17-fold difference between reconstructed estimates and reported statistics.

Communicated by Ecological Editor P. Sale