Recent breakthroughs in multiple fields of study now allow researchers to track the entire life cycle of ocean fish – from when and where they spawn, to where they disperse and grow, down to when and where they are caught, transported and eaten.
A recently published study by researchers at the University of Hawai’i (UH) at Manoa brought together experts from the fields of oceanography, genetics, ecology, fisheries biology and social sciences to develop unprecedented insights into the natural and commercial flow of fish.
“We believe fish flow analyzes will aid sustainable fisheries management and marine conservation efforts, and can foster public awareness, wise seafood choices, and appreciation of the socio-ecological interconnections involving fishing. “, said Mark Hixon, lead author of the study and professor and Hsiao Endowed Chair of Marine Biology at the UH Manoa School of Life Sciences.
Most ocean species that are exploited by humans live in “stocks”, or groups of isolated local populations, which have proven difficult to delineate and study.
Hixon and co-authors from the UH Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and Conservation International combined their expertise and applied recent breakthroughs in their respective fields to develop the first Fish Flow map on the island of ‘Hawaii.
Their findings indicate that the northern and southern parts of the island are closely linked through larval dispersal and catch distribution, a finding that highlights the importance of an inclusive approach to coral reef management and conservation in the world. the region.
“From a fisheries management perspective, our work shows that the resource base for these fisheries is vital to the food security of local communities, which further highlights the importance of community-based fisheries management,” said Jack Kittinger, co-author and study director. of Conservation International Hawaii.
At the borders of five disciplines
Researchers specializing in oceanography, genetics, ecology, fisheries biology and social sciences, each working at the frontier of their respective disciples, were needed for this study.
For example, oceanographers at SOEST rely on state-of-the-art computer models that take into account biological and physical factors in ever-higher resolution, allowing researchers to predict larval dispersal patterns. Additionally, thanks to advanced genomic techniques, tiny samples of fish tissue now reveal the spawning and settlement locations of adult fish and their offspring.
“The development of fish flow maps will better inform consumers and help resource managers to link fisheries and conservation policies to natural boundaries and pathways, including stock boundaries, networks of marine protected areas and fisheries management areas,” Hixon said.
“These fish flow maps will help ensure that everyone – from local community members to resource managers and policy makers – understands and appreciates how clearly humans are connected and dependent on seafood produced in diverse regions of the ocean, sometimes very remote,” Kittinger added.
The researchers aim to secure funding for a comprehensive fish flow analysis of ecologically and economically important fish species in Hawai’i. This effort should result in interactive web maps of “fish flows” illustrating the many connections and interdependencies between marine ecosystems and human communities.