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Mo’orea’s reefs have rebounded from environmental disturbance throughout the years largely due to herbivorous fish that deter damaging algal blooms. This resilience suggests herbivorous fishes act as a keystone species in the coral reef ecosystem, and the greater island community of Mo’orea. Parrotfish support reef health and stability, and reefs support the development of the local economy by way of tourism and access to medicine, nourishment, and protection. Because island communities rely heavily on coral reef ecosystems, identifying the impact of fishing on the morphology and ecosystem function of parrotfish in a time of marine management and demographic transition can increase our knowledge of the vulnerability and resilience of these complex socio-ecosystems. The 2016 study reported here seeks to understand to what extent changes in fisheries management and off-take rates have affected the historically sustainable relationship between Mo’orea’s fishing population, the lagoon’s supply of larger-sized parrotfish, and the ecological stability of the greater coral reef ecosystem. Specifically, this study measured average parrotfish size at various fishing zones and paired Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around the island, and then used participatory surveys to quantify fishermen observation of changes in parrotfish size since they started fishing. Both field data and participatory survey data show a decrease in parrotfish size since the establishment of MPAs. Island-wide, parrotfish also appear to be smaller in fished sites than in MPAs. Results suggest that the joint effect of zoning, catch-size enforcements and increased fishing pressure have caused a size-selection of parrotfish in the fishing zones of studied lagoons. These findings highlight the vulnerability of Mo’orea’s coral reef ecosystem to transitions in marine management strategy and size-selective fishing.
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Average abundances according to site, location, habitat type, and lunar occasion