San Diego State University anthropologist Matthew Lauer is teaming up with scientists and islanders alike to figure out how fishing practices influence coral reef health.
As climate change dramatically alters the dynamics of sea life in and around coral reefs, it is important not to forget that humans, too, feel the effects of an altered reef ecosystem. Although we aren’t sea creatures, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people around the world depend upon the fish and other marine life that coral reefs sustain. A $1.6 million grant awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to San Diego State University anthropologist Matthew Lauerand colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Florida State University will help investigators explore the complex interplay between fishers, their communities and coral reef ecology.
Fishers on the island of Mo’orea, French Polynesia, in the South Pacific Ocean tend to prefer algae-eaters like parrotfish. Too few parrotfish mean that algae can grow unchecked, smothering the reef and robbing it of nutrients, potentially permanently damaging or killing the coral population. How exactly these fishers choose their quarry, monitor fish populations and think about the dynamics of their catch—and how this interdependent food web will respond to pressures such as climate change—is an unsolved question.