The ecology of Indo-Pacific grouper (Serranidae) species and the effects of a small scale no take area on grouper assemblage, abundance and size frequency distribution
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- Unsworth, R.K.F., Powell, A., Hukom, F. et al. Mar Biol (2007) 152: 243. doi:10.1007/s00227-007-0675-3
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This paper used the case study of the Wakatobi Marine National Park, Indonesia to examine changes in the diversity, density and maturity of grouper species over a 5-year period following the establishment of a small-scale no-take area (NTA). This work was carried out to investigate whether “small” NTAs could be effective management strategies over a time scale that is relevant to local fishery communities and their perception of management success. Our research also documents the ecology of these species, information essential if we are to understand how management practises are to affect coral reef fish species. Designation of this “small NTA” increased the density of groupers by 30% over a 5-year period of protected status. After 5 years of protection, grouper populations within this NTA were more mature and double the density of those within the adjacent lightly fished sites and nearly five times those of a heavily fished site. During this time all other nearby fished sites underwent large declines in grouper density. The nearby lightly fished Kaledupa site decreased by up to 50% year−1. Such drastic declines are considered the impact of the exponential development of ever efficient and unsustainable methods of fishing within the study region. This NTA was not of benefit to all grouper species; the reasons for which are not clear. Such questions require further detailed research about the life history, population and behavioural ecology of Indo-Pacific grouper species. Such information is critical for urgently needed fisheries management. The present study found that a small scale NTA of 500 m length was large enough to increase the population of top predatory fish. In conjunction with other socially acceptable small scale NTAs it could help maintain and increase important fish stocks over a larger area. The use of “small” NTAs within networks of reserves should become a useful tool in the management of the locally exploited coral reefs.