A new report published on Wednesday, March 1st in the journal Science Advances warns about the dangers of overfishing, as University of North Carolina researchers discovered that 90 percent of predatory fish are now gone from Caribbean coral reefs, damaging both coastal economy, as well as affecting the ocean ecosystem. Good news is that the scientists stumbled upon what they call “supersites”, which is basically a formation that can support a wide variety of fish species, including predators. If predatory fish are to be introduced to these supersites, the scientists say this will reverse the economic and environmental setback caused by overfishing.
The supersites, according to Abel Valdivia, former University of North Carolina graduate student and lead author of the study, and UNC College of Arts & Sciences marine biologist, John Bruno, are, in fact, reefs with nooks and crannies that act as hiding places for prey. Introducing fish to the supersites would subsequently attract predators and boost marine life once again, the researchers said. Hence, they called for immediate prioritization of such supersites that could also double as regional models showcasing the value of biodiversity for tourism, boosting the economy at the same time, as well.
For their research, the team analyzed more than 30 reefs across Cuba, Mexico, Bahamas, Belize, and Florida that were both protected and unprotected in order to determine how many fish has been lost to overfishing. Upon comparing the fish biomass on a typical reef to the fish biomass on pristine sites, the researchers concluded that up to 90 percent of predators were gone because of overfishing.
Surprisingly, they also found a small number of reef locations that could remediate the problem. The researchers said that if protected, these sites could help restore depleted species and ultimately contribute to the recovery of predatory fish. John Bruno highlighted that if the number of predators returns to normal, the economy would have much to gain, as sharks who have lifespans of several decades would attract tourists every year. This translates to roughly one million dollars in tourism revenue over its lifespan, for the local economy, the researchers noted.
image Source: Flickr