Coral reef fish assemblages exhibit signs of depletion in two protected areas from the eastern of Los Canarreos archipelago (Cuba, Caribbean Sea)

PeerJ. 2022 Oct 14;10:e14229. doi: 10.7717/peerj.14229. eCollection 2022.

ABSTRACT

Understanding the impact of marine protected areas on the distribution and composition of fishes is key to the protection and management of coral reef ecosystems, and especially for fish-based activities such as SCUBA diving and recreational fishing. The aim of this research is to compare the ichthyofauna structure in three areas in the eastern part of Los Canarreos archipelago in Cuba with different management schemes: Cayo Campos-Cayo Rosario Fauna Refuge (CCCR), Cayo Largo Ecological Reserve (CL) and non-protected area (nMPA), and considering habitat differences and depth variation. A total of 131 video transects were conducted using diver operated stereo-video (stereo-DOV) in November, 2015 in backreef and forereef along the CCCR, CL and the adjacent nMPA. We recorded 84 species and 27 functional groups suggesting high complementarity of functions. Several multispecies schools were observed along surveys, which explain the biomass peaks in some sites, mainly for Lutjanidae, Haemulidae and Carangidae. A concerning issue was the bare representation of critical functional groups and threatened species. The effect of sites nested within habitats was significant and the most important driver structuring fish assemblages, while MPA condition was not evident. Favorable habitat features (habitat heterogeneity and surrounding coastal ecosystems) are likely enhancing fish assemblages and counteracting the effects of pouching derived from insufficient management. We recommend immediate actions within a strategy of precautionary management including, but not limited to, the appointment of staff for the administration of CL, frequent monitoring and effective enforcement.

PMID:36262415 | PMC:PMC9575676 | DOI:10.7717/peerj.14229

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