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Reef Fisheries

IndoPacific Overview

Indo-Pacific coral reef fisheries harvest a wide range of animals and plants that are associated with tropical coral reefs or associated habitats (sea-grasses, mangroves, inter-reef areas) for some part of their life cycle. Important fisheries in the Indo-Pacific region include:
  • hundreds of species of bottom-dwelling fish of many different families (snappers, groupers, emperors, trevallies, parrot fish, surgeonfish, butterfly fish, goatfish, and many more) which are used as a subsistence food supply, for market sale, and for traditional and commercial processing. Increasing quantities of some reef fish species are being harvested live for the food and ornamental fish trades;
  • small mid-water fish, including garfish, anchovies, sardines, sprats, scads, Indian mackerels and hardyheads, caught primarily in nets and used fresh, dried or fermented as food, as well as for line-fishing bait;
  • large mid-water and oceanic fish, including Spanish mackerel, tunas, rainbow runners, fusiliers, barracudas and needlefish, used for food or market sale;
  • deep-water jobfish, snappers, emperors and groupers caught by deep-line fishing on the outer reef slope;
  • tropical lobsters and crabs, including the coconut crab and other land crabs;
  • squid, octopus and cuttlefish;
  • reef sharks, harvested increasingly for their fins which are dried and sold on East Asian markets;
  • about thirty species of sea cucumbers (holothurians). These are mostly boiled, dried and sold into China and Taiwan, although one or two species are consumed locally as fresh items;
  • turtles, which are of cultural significance to many coastal communities. Their meat and eggs are eaten, and their shells used for jewellery and decorative items;
  • trochus, green snail, and pearl oysters, whose shells are exported world-wide for use as buttons and decorative inlay work;
  • sand and mud clams, mangrove oysters, mud-snails and other molluscs, used primarily for subsistence purposes;
  • palolo worms, peanut worms, jellyfish, sipunculids and other miscellaneous invertebrates, harvested as local delicacies in some places;
  • several types of seaweed, eaten as a vegetable;
  • corals themselves, which are quarried for building materials or lime production, and harvested for ornamental purposes.
Many of these species are not associated with coral reefs for their entire life cycle, and in some cases not even for most of it. Many species of coral reef fish have pelagic larvae which are dispersed widely before they settle to become territorial adults. Marine turtles, sharks and tunas may spend periods of time in association with reefs in between extensive migrations. Some fish and invertebrate species are more closely associated with seagrasses or mangroves than they are with corals themselves. However all of them interact in the complex tropical coastal environments of which reefs are a key part.

Source: Gary Preston (written for ReefBase)
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