Marine ecological footprint indicates unsustainability of the Pohnpei (Micronesia) coral reef fishery

Type Journal Article - Environmental Conservation
Title Marine ecological footprint indicates unsustainability of the Pohnpei (Micronesia) coral reef fishery
Volume 42
Issue 02
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 182-190
Throughout the tropics, developing countries and
territories are highly dependent on nearshore marine
resources for food and income, however information
on the sustainability and proper management of
these fisheries is lacking. In Pohnpei, Micronesia, the
sustainability of a coral reef finfishery was assessed by
comparing coral reef fish demand to coral reef biocapacity
using amarine ecological footprint (MEF) analysis.
Based on geo-referenced satellite and aerial imagery,
Pohnpei and surrounding atolls have 184.2 km2 of coral
reef habitat with a sustainable finfish yield of 573–
1118 t yr-1, however total harvest was estimated at
4068 t yr-1, exceeding biocapacity by 360–710%. The
MEF was supported by observed impacts to coral
reef resources, including (1) long-term declines in fish
spawning aggregation density, (2) reductions in mean
size, age and fecundity of key commercial species, (3)
reliance on undersized fish, and (4) decadal declines in
mean size and abundance of fishes of iconic value and
critical to ecosystem maintenance. The commercial
fishery was responsible for 68% of finfish catch volume,
while reef fish consumption, at 93 kg person-1 yr-1, was
among the highest in the region. To sustainably meet
current demand, up to 833 km2 of additional reef area
would be required. The study illustrates the MEF, at
least rudimentarily, reflects biological reality on local
reefs and represents a valuable analytical tool in a
marine policymaker’s toolbox.

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