University Of Tasmania
McClanahan et al 2019 MEPS.pdf (3 MB)

Global baselines and benchmarks for fish biomass: comparing remote reefs and fisheries closures

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 01:37 authored by McClanahan, TR, Schroeder, RE, Friedlander, AM, Vigliola, L, Wantiez, L, Caselle, JE, Graham, NAJ, Wilson, S, Graham EdgarGraham Edgar, Richard Stuart-SmithRichard Stuart-Smith, Oddenyo, RM, Cinner, JE
Baselines and benchmarks (B&Bs) are needed to evaluate the ecological status and fisheries potential of coral reefs. B&Bs may depend on habitat features and energetic limitations that constrain biomass within the natural variability of the environment and fish behaviors. To evaluate if broad B&Bs exist, we compiled data on the biomass of fishes in ~1000 reefs with no recent history of fishing in 19 ecoregions. These reefs spanned the full longitude and latitude of Indian and Pacific Ocean reefs and included older high-compliance fisheries closures (>15 yr closure) and remote reef areas (>9 h travel time from fisheries markets). There was no significant change in biomass over the 15 to 48 yr closure period but closures had only ~40% of the biomass (740 kg ha-1, lower confidence interval [LCI] = 660 kg ha-1, upper confidence interval [UCI] = 810 kg ha-1, n = 157) of remote tropical reefs (1870 [1730, 2000] kg ha-1, n = 503). Remote subtropical reefs had lower biomass (950 [860, 1040] kg ha-1, n = 329) than tropical reefs. Closures and remote reef fish biomass responded differently to environmental variables of coral cover, net primary productivity, and light, indicating that remote reefs are more limited by productivity and habitat than closures. Closures in fished seascapes are unlikely to achieve the biomass and community composition of remote reefs, which suggests fisheries benchmarks will differ substantially from wilderness baselines. A fishery benchmark (B0) of ~1000 kg ha-1 adjusted for geography is suggested for fisheries purposes. For ecological purposes, a wilderness baseline of ~1900 kg ha-1 is appropriate for including large and mobile species not well protected by closures.


Australian Research Council

Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia)

Dept of Environment & Natural Resources South Australia

NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water

Parks Victoria

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service


Publication title

Marine Ecology - Progress Series








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies



Place of publication

Nordbunte 23, Oldendorf Luhe, Germany, D-21385

Rights statement

Copyright 2019 the authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity; Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems