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Written by and Photo courtesy of Ruth Towers

Why study coral reef fisheries in the Wakatobi?

The coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific contain more species of marine fish than anywhere else in the world. These fish are a vital source of food and income for the people of the Wakatobi. Many of the people here are artisanal fishers, which means that they catch enough fish to feed themselves and their families, and any that’s left over is sold or traded at local markets.

However, this kind of fishing can pose a problem to the local marine ecosystem because the methods these fishers use to catch fish are often unselective, and the fishers have very little control of the species, size or age of the fish that they catch.

How does the program here with Opwall help this?

Here on Hoga, I’ve been studying the effects that fish fences, a fishing method used by many artisanal fishers in the area, are having on the local coral reef and seagrass ecosystem. Every day we’ve been measuring and identifying the species caught by fish fence fishers to gain a better understanding of how fish fences are affecting their populations and what the possible impacts of this might be, both on the ecosystem and the food and income source of the fishers.

When we asked the fishers what changes they have observed, many of them reported a 50-70% decrease in the number of fish they’ve been able to catch in the last 10 years. This shows how important the research we’re doing here is, so that the fisheries can be better managed in the future, to preserve the ecology of the most biodiverse area on earth and the livelihoods of the people who live here. It is a fantastic project and one that truly has a positive impact in this region and in this community.

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