Hyperstability masks declines in bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) populations

Abstract

Bolbometopon muricatum, the largest species of parrotfish, is a functionally important species that is characterised by the formation of aggregations for foraging, reproductive, and sleeping behaviours. Aggregations are restricted to shallow reef habitats, the locations of which are often known to local fishers. Bolbometopon muricatum fisheries are therefore vulnerable to overfishing and are likely to exhibit hyperstability, the maintenance of high catch per unit effort (CPUE) while population abundance declines. In this study, we provide a clear demonstration of hyperstable dynamics in a commercial B. muricatum fishery in Isabel Province, Solomon Islands. Initially, we used participatory mapping to demarcate the Kia fishing grounds into nine zones that had experienced different historic levels of fishing pressure. We then conducted comprehensive underwater visual census (UVC) and CPUE surveys across these zones over a 21-month period in 2012–2013. The individual sites for replicate UVC surveys were selected using a generalised random tessellation stratified variable probability design, while CPUE surveys involved trained provincial fisheries officers and local spearfishers. A comparison of fishery-independent abundance data and fishery-dependent CPUE data indicate extreme hyperstability, with CPUE maintained as B. muricatum abundance declines towards zero. Hyperstability may explain the sudden collapses of many B. muricatum spear fisheries across the Pacific and highlights the limitations of using data-poor fisheries assessment methods to evaluate the status of commercially valuable coral reef fishes that form predicable aggregations.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Kia House of Chiefs, Isabel Provincial Government, Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology for supporting this work. Special acknowledgments go to all of the Kia district spearfishers who partook in this research; this study would have been impossible without your interest and support. We thank W. Dolava, M. Giningele, P. Kame, A. Kokoe, H. Kokoe, and M. Vaka for assisting with data collection. We also thank C. Gereniu, W. Enota, P. Jay, F. Kavali, T. Leve, P. Lomae, L. Madada, D. Motui, J. Pai, G. Tavake, J. Ulo, and R. Zama for partaking in the UVC survey. Finally, we thank B. Erisman, Y. Sadovy de Mitcheson, S. Lindfield, and an anonymous reviewer for making improvements on an earlier version of this manuscript. The bumphead parrotfish study was completed with support from The Asian Development Bank (ADB TA-7753).

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Correspondence to Richard J. Hamilton.

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Communicated by Ecology Editor Alastair Harborne

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Hamilton, R.J., Almany, G.R., Stevens, D. et al. Hyperstability masks declines in bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) populations. Coral Reefs 35, 751–763 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-016-1441-0

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Keywords

  • Aggregations
  • Bolbometopon muricatum
  • Coral reef fisheries
  • Data-poor assessments
  • Hyperstability
  • Collapse