A newly-published study has brought together researchers across multiple fields to provide first-time insights into the flow of fish, both naturally and commercially.
Most species of fish in the ocean that appeal to humans are hard to mark out and study. This is because they tend to live in units of secluded local populations, also called stocks.
In this new study, researchers from different fields of study used the latest breakthroughs in their respective disciplines to examine ocean species. They were able to come up with fresh insights that can help to advance fisheries management and conservation drives.
“We believe that Fish Flow Analyses will promote sustainable fisheries management and conservation efforts, and may foster public knowledge, wise seafood choices, and appreciation of socio-ecological interconnections involving fisheries,” said lead author Mark Hixon, the Hsiao Endowed Chair in Marine Biology at the School of Life Sciences, the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Developing Fish Flow maps
Along with UH Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and Conservation International researchers, Hixon set out to produce the Island of Hawaii’s first Fish Flow map.
The research involved people from five different fields of study. Team members’ areas of expertise included oceanography, fish biology, ecology, genetics, and social sciences. These researchers made use of recent advances in their fields to provide fresh insights into the flow of fish.
Oceanography researchers from SOEST used advanced computer models to predict larval dispersal patterns. These models make it possible to observe physical and biological factors in significantly higher resolution.
Oceanographers also used superior genomic techniques to examine tiny tissue samples to establish fish spawning and settlement areas on the island.
Hixon and his fellow researchers found an intricate link between the northern and southern parts of the island. This was in terms of larval dispersal and catch distribution. The finding underscores the importance of handling coral reef management and conservation in an inclusive manner.
“From a fisheries management perspective, our work shows that the resource base for these fisheries is vital for the food security of local communities, which further emphasizes the importance of community-based fishery management,” said co-author Jack Kittinger, the director of Conservation International Hawaii.
Hixon noted that Fish Flow maps will help resource managers in linking policies on conservation and fisheries with natural frontiers and pathways. These include stock boundaries, fisheries management areas, and marine protected locations.
The maps will also make consumers better informed. They will enable everyone to be aware of how humans are dependent on seafood coming from different – at times, very remote – ocean regions.
Hixon and his co-authors are hoping to get funding that would enable them to carry out a detailed Fish Flow analysis. This will focus on species of fish in Hawaii that are significant in both ecological and commercial terms.
The team is looking to develop interactive Fish Flow maps that will be available online. These will show the various connections and interdependence between humans and marine ecosystems.