A Paradigm Shift for Red Sea Fisheries Management to Enhance Recovery, Resilience, and Sustainability of Coral Reef Ecosystems in the Red Sea


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A Paradigm Shift for Red Sea Fisheries Management to Enhance Recovery, Resilience, and Sustainability of Coral Reef Ecosystems in the Red Sea

Shallow water coral reefs are found in tropical areas, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to a maximum of about 50–75 m depth, in environments with suitable temperatures, salinity, light, nutrients, sediment, hydrodynamics, and seawater carbonate chemistry. Coral reefs are estimated to cover from 284,300 km2 (Spalding et al. 2001) to about 920,000 km2 when associated habitats are included in calculations (Costanza et al. 1997), with 91% of this area in the Indo-Pacific. The Red Sea, which is considered part of the Indo-Pacific region, contains the most biologically diverse reef communities outside of the Southeast Asia coral triangle; it shares many of the species found in other Indo-Pacific locations and also contains approximately 10% species level endemism (DeVantier et al. 2000). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the largest area of coral reefs (6,660-km2 reef area) in the Red Sea, extending more than 1,840 km from the Gulf of Aqaba in the north to the Farasan Islands, north of Yemen, in the south.

Coral reefs are the most complex ecosystem in the marine environment. This complexity is expressed in both the variety of interconnected benthic habitats and a vast array of associated biota, with representatives from 32 of the 34 described animal phyla. At least one-third of all known marine fishes spend at least some portion of their lives in coral reef habitats (Sale 2002); at least 4,000 Indo-Pacific species, 1,400 western Atlantic species, and about 1,100 eastern Atlantic and eastern Pacific species of reef fish have been described (Sale 1991; Spalding et al. 2001; Harmelin-Vivien 2002). The high diversity is largely due to the heterogeneous nature of coral reef habitat, which can accommodate large size-ranges of reef fishes and numerous functional niches in relatively small areas.

Coral reefs are also one of the few ecosystems that are built upon biogenic substrates created by the dominant organisms found on reefs. The reef substrate consists of limestone originating primarily from the skeletons of stony corals and crustose coralline algae, which has undergone significant modifications in form and area on relatively short time scales. Through grazing activities, bioerosion, and physical breakage during storms, coral skeletons are progressively eroded to produce rubble and sand. Other organisms and a host of chemical, biological, and physical processes cement this material together to form a durable reef substrate, resulting in intricate structures that have enormous surface heterogeneity at a wide variety of spatial scales (Choat and Bellwood 1991).

While the diversity of reef fishes is influenced by the complexity of the reef habitat created by corals, fishes are also an important, dynamic component of this unique ecosystem. Through interactions at virtually all trophic levels, coral reef fishes modify the reef community structure and help maintain the health of the associated habitat forming corals, and they are major conduits for the movements of energy and nutrients into, within, and out of the reef ecosystem (Hobson 1991; Bellwood and Wainwright 2002). The ecological importance of coral reef fishes also extends beyond the boundaries of the coral habitat. Many reef fishes that are pelagic piscivores and planktivores often feed, and become prey, far away from the coral reef, and the pelagic egg, larval, and juvenile stages form a vast prey resource for predators in oceanic waters…


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