The Global Reef Expedition is one of the largest coral reef studies in history, conducted by the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. Now that it has been completed, its findings indicate that reef fishes are overexploited globally.
Why reef fish populations matter
An estimated six million fishers in 99 countries and territories target reef fish species for sustenance and subsistence. The world’s reefs produce 10-12% of the fish caught in tropical nations and 20-25% of the fish caught in the developing nations of the Pacific, Indian, Middle East, and the Caribbean. Across the tropical Pacific nations, it is estimated that 90% of the daily protein consumed by local communities comes directly from adjacent reefs. With so many people relying on reef fish for their daily lives, managing fish stocks is imperative.
Findings: reef fishes are being overexploited globally
Some studies suggest minimum reef fish biomass targets should fall between 1,195 and 1,900 kg per ha (or 11-19 kg per 100m2) to help maintain sustainable reef fish populations and help maintain critical ecosystem services, food security, and resilience of coral reefs. In most locations, findings from the Global Reef Expedition suggest that the fish biomass fell at or below this threshold, as seen below.
Nearly every country surveyed showed signs of overfishing, which is alarming and calls for the enforcement of measures to help bring fish populations to a more sustainable level. Such measures could include size and catch limits to ensure the larger fish are being preserved, local closures against fishing during spawning to help maintain a suitable fish population, or establishing no-take, no-entry areas.
Read more about the Global Reef Expedition here.