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Patterns of Coral-Reef Finfish Species Disappearances Inferred from Fishers’ Knowledge in Global Epicentre of Marine Shorefish Diversity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Margarita Lavides, Erina Molina, Professor Aileen MillORCiD, Professor Stephen Rushton, Professor Selina Stead, Professor Nick Polunin



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


In the Philippines, very high fishing pressure coincides with the globally greatest number of shorefish species, yet no long-term fisheries data are available to explore species-level changes that may have occurred widely in the most species rich and vulnerable marine ecosystem, namely coral reefs. Through 2655 face-to-face interviews conducted between August 2012 and July 2014, we used fishers’ recall of past catch rates of reef-associated finfish to infer species disappearances from catches in five marine key biodiversity areas (Lanuza Bay, Danajon Bank, Verde Island Passage, Polillo Islands and Honda Bay). We modeled temporal trends in perceived catch per unit effort (CPUE) based on fishers’ reports of typical good days’ catches using Generalized Linear Mixed Modelling. Fifty-nine different finfish disappeared from catches between the 1950s and 2014; 42 fish were identified to species level, two to genus, seven to family and eight to local name only. Five species occurring at all sites with the greatest number of fishers reporting zero catches were the green bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum), humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), African pompano (Alectis ciliaris), giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) and mangrove red snapper (Lutjanus argentimaculatus). Between the 1950s and 2014, the mean perceived CPUE of bumphead parrotfish declined by 88%, that of humphead wrasse by 82%, African pompano by 66%, giant grouper by 74% and mangrove red snapper by 64%. These declines were mainly associated with excess and uncontrolled fishing, fish life-history traits like maximum body size and socio-economic factors like access to market infrastructure and services, and overpopulation. The fishers’ knowledge is indicative of extirpations where evidence for these losses was otherwise lacking. Our models provide information as basis for area-based conservation and regional resource management particularly for the more vulnerable, once common, large, yet wide-ranging reef finfish species.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lavides MN, Molina EPV, de la Rosa GE, Mill AC, Rushton SP, Stead SM, Polunin NVC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PloS ONE

Year: 2016

Volume: 11

Issue: 5

Online publication date: 18/05/2016

Acceptance date: 04/05/2016

Date deposited: 23/06/2016

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155752


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Funder referenceFunder name
Ateneo de Manila University
19-020Darwin Initiative Programme - Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) United Kingdom Government