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Counteracting the worldwide trend of coral reef degeneration is a major challenge for the scientific community. A crucial management approach to minimizing stress effects on healthy reefs and helping the recovery of disturbed reefs is reef protection. However, the current rapid decline of the world's reefs suggests that protection might be insufficient as a viable stand-alone management approach for some reefs. We thus suggest that the ecological restoration of coral reefs (CRR) should be considered as a valid component of coral reef management, in addition to protection, if the applied method is economically applicable and scalable. This theoretical study examines the potential applicability and outcomes of restocking grazers as a restoration tool for coral reef recovery – a tool that has not been applied so far in reef restoration projects. We studied the effect of restocking grazing fish as a restoration method using a mathematical model of degrading reefs, and analyzed the financial outcomes of the restocking intervention. The results suggest that applying this restoration method, in addition to protection, can facilitate reef recovery. Moreover, our analysis suggests that the restocking approach almost always becomes profitable within several years. Considering the relatively low cost of this restoration approach and the feasibility of mass production of herbivorous fish, we suggest that this approach should be considered and examined as an additional viable restoration tool for coral reefs.
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