Abstract: Evidence from both temperate and tropical marine ecosystems suggests that fish behaviour can be substantially altered in response to fishing and protection from fishing. While deliberate alteration of fish behaviour through customary management has been used to increase catchability of reef fishes across the Pacific, fish behaviour is commonly overlooked when discussing benefits from management. I utilized a commonly used metric from terrestrial assessments of animal behaviour – flight initiation distance – and fish community and fishery surveys to address the overarching question: what impact do artisanal fishing and protection have on fish behaviour and what are the implications for conservation and fisheries management? Results from across the Pacific demonstrate that flight initiation distance of targeted families varies with the presence/absence of protection and with fishing. Further, lower flight initiation distance of target families
extended up to 150m beyond the boundaries of no-take marine protected areas, significantly further than spillover of biomass was detected. Fishes inside periodically harvested closures (a common management tool throughout the Pacific) had similar flight initiation distances to those in no-take marine reserves. For Acanthuridae, this reduction in flight initiation distance was linked to increased catch per unit effort during harvesting activities when compared to regular fishing activities. Notably, all impact of the periodically harvested closures on fish behaviour was lost in only 3 days of fishing effort. My research suggests that changes in fish behaviour can play an important role in the delivery of fishery benefits from both MPAs and PHCs, providing a tractable, additional benefit to local fishers although results vary by fish family.
Biography: Born in Edinburgh, Fraser grew up in the UK and Malawi. Having completed both his BSc (Hons) in Marine Biology and an MSc in Tropical Coastal Management at Newcastle University, he departed for Papua New Guinea. During his three years working for the Wildlife Conservation Society in PNG, he helped establish a network of locally managed marine protected areas in New Ireland, a sustainable coral farming project on Andra Island and learned to chew betelnut without turning green.