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Artisanal fish fences pose broad and unexpected threats to the tropical coastal seascape

Exton, Dan A., Ahmadia, Gabby N., Cullen-Unsworth, Leanne C., Jompa, Jamaluddin, May, Duncan, Rice, Joel, Simonin, Paul W., Unsworth, Richard K. F. and Smith, David J. 2019. Artisanal fish fences pose broad and unexpected threats to the tropical coastal seascape. Nature Communications 10 , 2100. 10.1038/s41467-019-10051-0

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Gear restrictions are an important management tool in small-scale tropical fisheries, improving sustainability and building resilience to climate change. Yet to identify the management challenges and complete footprint of individual gears, a broader systems approach is required that integrates ecological, economic and social sciences. Here we apply this approach to artisanal fish fences, intensively used across three oceans, to identify a previously underrecognized gear requiring urgent management attention. A longitudinal case study shows increased effort matched with large declines in catch success and corresponding reef fish abundance. We find fish fences to disrupt vital ecological connectivity, exploit > 500 species with high juvenile removal, and directly damage seagrass ecosystems with cascading impacts on connected coral reefs and mangroves. As semi-permanent structures in otherwise open-access fisheries, they create social conflict by assuming unofficial and unregulated property rights, while their unique high-investment-low-effort nature removes traditional economic and social barriers to overfishing.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Additional Information: This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license
Publisher: Nature Research
ISSN: 2041-1723
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 January 2020
Date of Acceptance: 16 April 2019
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2020 14:00

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