Response of three predatory reef fish species to fishing protection in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

Fish protected areas are increasingly utilized as a means of bolstering existing fish stocks while laying the foundation for healthy future populations. Such areas can promote species abundance, density, total biomass, and fecundity. This project set out to study the effects of FPAs on three reef predators, the graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata), the coney (Cephalopholis fulva) and the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). S. barracuda has a substantially greater range (range of median distance traveled between 0.5 and 8 km) than either of C. cruentata or C. fulva, and has complex range tendencies that include site fidelity along with spawning migrations. Since home range size and response to fish fishing protection are correlated, the effects of FPAs on S. barracuda populations may differ in relation to the effects felt by C. fulva and C. cruentata populations. Using visual sampling methods inside and outside of Bonaire’s FPAs, sightings per unit effort were recorded for all three species to compare how the predators might respond to the establishment of FPAs. The results of this study indicate that S. barracuda has a greater response to protection than either C. fulva or C. cruentata. All species showed increasing total length trends going from unprotected to protected areas. Yet, neither species showed a significant difference in abundance between the two areas. This may be an indication that, at present, Bonaire’s FPAs are not effectively protecting S. barracuda, C. fulva, or C. cruentata.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science X (Fall 2011)19: 28-34 from CIEE Bonaire.

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