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To fish or to dive?: A case examine of fisher and diver perceptions of coral reef administration

This week is #BlackInMarineScience week and right here at Oceanbites we’re that includes the work of Black scientists all week lengthy! At this time’s publish is that includes work carried out by Dr. Ayana Johnson on coral reefs and the way greatest to handle them beneath altering ocean situations. Learn on to study a bit about Dr. Johnson and her analysis.

Meet Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a distinguished marine biologist. She acquired a B.A. from Harvard College in Environmental science and Public Coverage, a M.Sc. from Scripps Establishment of Oceanography and a Ph.D. from Scripps Establishment of Oceanography in marine biology. Her dissertation analysis targeted on the ecology, socio-economics and coverage of sustainably managing coral reefs. Previous to attending graduate faculty, she was an Environmental Scientist on the US Environmental Safety Company. She has acquired a number of fellowships for her analysis efforts.

Picture courtesy: Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Largely notably, she gained a Nationwide Geographic Answer Search Award for a fish entice she invented throughout her Ph.D. that reduces bycatch. Now she works on the intersection of analysis, science communication and coverage. Dr. Johnson based the City Ocean Lab which is a suppose tank for the way forward for coastal cities. As a Brooklyn native, she is enthusiastic about city ocean conservation and approaches local weather issues with a multi-disciplinary lens. Take a look at her web site for a extra detailed bio and to learn extra about her spectacular accomplishments.


This publish is in assist of #BlackInMarineScience week highlighting Black scientists who’ve contributed to and are at present working within the marine science area. To seek out out extra go to

Quotation: Johnson, A.E., Jackson, J.B.C., 2015. Fisher and diver perceptions of coral reef degradation and implications for sustainable administration. World Ecology and Conservation 3, 890–899.

What lies beneath the waves (…or doesn’t)

Coral reefs are stunning little cities which might be vital for quite a few causes. They defend coastlines from storms and erosion and supply each jobs for native comminutes (ie., fishing) and leisure alternatives (ie., snorkeling/SCUBA diving). Sadly, Caribbean island reefs have been broken attributable to overfishing, fixed coastal growth, air pollution and local weather change.

It’s potential to guard coral reefs by means of administration practices; nonetheless, this may be extremely tough attributable to public perceptions generally known as a shifting baselines. A shifting baseline implies that folks utilizing the coral reef methods (ie., divers) don’t have a full appreciation for the place coral reef well being began when in comparison with reef well being right now. In different phrases, their baseline of a wholesome reef is extra optimistic. This concept is explored in a examine by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson who set off to know the best way to greatest handle coral reefs.

Dr. Johnson interviewing fishermen on the roadside in Curaçao. Photograph courtesy: A. Johnson, TED Discuss slide.

How to determine the perfect administration practices?

Dr. Johnson carried out a case examine on the islands of Curaçao and Bonaire. Between the 2 islands, she interviewed 177 full time and part-time fishers and 211 skilled SCUBA divers. All of the fishers have been grouped collectively and represented small-scale fishing operations as a result of industrial fishing doesn’t exist on both island. The interviews have been conversational and informal in nature as Dr. Johnson felt this was one of the best ways to get native participation. Interviewees ranged in age and experience and have been requested about their opinions associated to perceived causes of adjustments in fish abundance and reef situations, and assist for administration efforts.

Jose Streder, a Curaçaoan spearfisherman, exhibiting off his goliath grouper in 1960. These giant fish at the moment are just about extinct in Curaçao’s waters attributable to overfishing. Photograph: Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, TED Discuss slide.

Dr. Johnson discovered that fishers’ and divers’ anecdotes mimic the scientific proof, citing that the “coast is now a desert” in comparison with what they skilled or the tales they have been informed. Though divers had a brighter view of well being of coral reefs and fish populations, each fishers and divers agreed that the fish have shrunk (you will get an appreciation for a way giant the fish was within the picture to the precise). The truth is, Dr. Johnson interviewed one diver that mentioned, ‘‘I miss the large fish. Some locations it’s like diving in a saltwater aquarium—all these little fish.’’

This extra optimistic view is probably going from the concept of ‘shifting baselines’, the place divers are typically youthful, have the next turnover charge and have much less of a household historical past in diving in order that they don’t have an appreciation for the timeline of reef degradation. As well as, race performed a job in differing opinions – most fishers have been black and Antillean whereas most divers have been white and overseas. Despite the fact that there have been many variations within the responses between fishers and divers, each teams agreed that: 1) the well being of the reefs and fisheries is threatened and a couple of) higher administration is required to show the scenario round.

A spearfisher’s catch in Curaçao – be aware that these fish are largely parrotfish (the fish that assist hold coral reefs clear from algae overgrowth). Photograph courtesy: A. Johnson

Shifting ahead to sustainably handle coral reefs

It appeared that fishers blamed divers for reef destruction and vice versa. Nevertheless, each teams could cause important injury to the coral reef ecosystem. Usually, fishers get extra blame for environmental destruction as a result of the consequences from fishing are extra speedy. Then again, divers and tourism will be simply as unhealthy when folks kick and contact reefs and use dangerous sunscreens. Whatever the varieties of destruction, it’s clear that one thing has to alter as a result of livelihoods depend on an answer. The one approach to preserve peoples’ livelihoods is to make a gradual transition to extra sustainable administration practices. As well as, Dr. Johnson outlines the next pointers for sustainably handle coral reefs, highlighting a gradual transition is essential:

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