From: University of British Columbia (UBC)
Published September 26, 2017 08:18 AM

Going diving in the tropics? Don't eat the reef fish!

Reducing tourist consumption of reef fish is critical for Palau’s ocean sustainability, finds a new UBC study that suggests other small island nations might also consider adopting this strategy.

Climate change is expected to lead to sharp declines in Palau’s reefs, and this new research suggests that the best tourism management strategy includes a more than 70 per cent reduction in the amount of reef fish eaten by visitors. These findings are relevant for sustainable development for other small island developing states that are likely to feel a significant impact from changes to the ocean.

“Palau’s reefs and the fish communities they host are incredibly beautiful and recognized worldwide as a top diving destination,” says lead author Colette Wabnitz, research associate with the Nippon Foundation-UBC Nereus Program at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. “Tourist numbers can reach nine times the local population and most come to enjoy the ocean. This puts enormous pressure on local marine resources that are central to local communities’ culture, food security and livelihoods.”

Palau, an archipelago of 700 islands in the South Pacific, is heavily dependent on tourism. Many studies have focused on damage that tourists cause reefs physically — from stepping on coral to interacting with wildlife — but this is the first to look at the effects of consuming the same fish that tourists are looking at through their dive masks.

 

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