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Low fuel cost and rising fish price threaten coral reef wilderness

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  • F.A. Januchowski-Hartley
  • L. Vigliola
  • E. Maire
  • M. Kulbicki
  • D. Mouillot
Article numbere12706
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/05/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Conservation Letters
Issue number3
Number of pages9
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date5/02/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Wilderness areas offer unparalleled ecosystem conditions. However, growing human populations and consumption are among factors that drive encroachment on these areas. Here, we explore the threat of small‐scale fisheries to wilderness reefs by developing a framework and modeling fluctuations in fishery range with fuel costs and fish prices. We modeled biomass of four fishery groups across the New Caledonian archipelago, and used fish and fuel prices from 2005 to 2020 to estimate the extent of exploited reefs across three fishing scenarios. From 2012 to 2018, maximum profitable range increased from 15 to over 30 hr from the capital city, expanding to reefs previously uneconomic to fish, including a UNESCO heritage site. By 2020, over half of New Caledonian (∼17% global) wilderness reefs will become profitable to fish. Our results demonstrate that remoteness from humans should not be considered protection for wilderness coral reefs in the context of rising fish prices.