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by Alan Friedlander, Pacific Coral Reef Science coordinator

Our work has documented the ecosystem effects of fishing and the loss of apex predators (sharks and ulua) throughout most tropical systems. Examination of some of the few remaining remote ecosystems like the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Palmyra Atoll has provided opportunities to understand how unaltered ecosystems are structured, how they function, and how they can most effectively be preserved. These reefs are among the few remaining large-scale “pristine” ecosystems left in the world and offer a chance to examine what could occur if larger, more effective, no-take marine protected areas were implemented in the main Hawaiian Islands and elsewhere. Our current major research involves developing a biogeographic approach using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to integrate information on the distribution of habitats and associated species to characterize the strength of species habitat affinities, define biologically relevant MPA boundaries, and evaluate MPA effectiveness. This work has highlighted the importance of habitat, size, and level of protection from fishing in MPA effectiveness with respect to their associated fish assemblages in the main Hawaiian islands.

Research is also focused on community-based fisheries projects in Hawai‘i and other locations that have emphasized the traditional system of social and cultural controls on fishing as a mechanism for sustainable resource use. Working with local resource monitors, we are creating a predictive management tool based loosely on the Hawaiian moon calendar to guide responsible fishing practices. Owing to the decline in marine ecosystems worldwide and the failure of conventional measures to halt these declines, we are developing integrated approaches that focus on place-based ecosystem management that incorporate traditional and contemporary knowledge to solve problems related to resource declines.

Coral Reefs are bioherms that provide food and shelter for thousands of species of algae, invertebrates, fishes, and sea turtles.

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