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Assessing gear modifications needed to optimize yields in a heavily exploited, multi-species, seagrass and coral reef fishery

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Article number36022
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/05/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>PLoS ONE
Issue number5
Volume7
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Effective management is necessary if small-scale fisheries, such as those found in mixed habitats including seagrass and coral reefs, are to continue providing food for many of the poorest communities of the world. Gear-based management, although under represented and under studied, has the potential to be adaptive, address multiple objectives, and be crafted to the socio-economic setting. Management effectiveness in seagrass and coral reef fisheries has generally been evaluated at the scale of the fish community. However, community level indicators can mask species-specific declines that provide significant portions of the fisheries yields and income. Using a unique dataset, containing ten years of species level length frequency catch data from a multi-gear, multi-species seagrass and coral reef fishery in Kenya, we evaluate species specific fishery statuses, compare gear use to gear regulations and estimate the potential needs for further gear restrictions. Despite the high diversity of the fishery, fifteen species represented over 90% of the catch, and only three species represented 60% of the catch. The three most abundant species in the catch, Lethrinus lentjan (Lacepede), Siganus sutor (Valenciennes) and Leptoscarus vaigiensis (Quoy & Gaimard) all showed evidence of growth overfishing. Lethrinus lentjan, with an exploitation rate of 0.82, also shows evidence of recruitment overfishing. Current legal but weakly enforced gear restrictions are capable of protecting a significant portion of the catch up to maturity but optimization of yield will require that the current mesh size be increased from 6.3 to 8.8 and 9.2 cm to increase yields of L. lentjan and S. sutor, respectively. Given the difficulties of enforcing mesh size, we recommend that the economic benefits of these larger mesh sizes be communicated and enforced through co-management. This abstract is also available in Kiswahili (Abstract S1).