Implications of Urbanization for Artisanal Parrotfish Fisheries in the Western Solomon Islands
Increasing migration into urbanized centers in the Solomon Islands poses a great threat to adjacent coral reef fisheries because of negative effects on the fisheries and because it further erodes customary management systems. Parrotfish fisheries are of particular importance because the feeding habits of parrotfish (scrape and excavate coral) are thought to be critical to the resilience of coral reefs and to maintaining coral reef health within marine protected areas. We investigated the ecological impact of localized subsistence and artisanal fishing pressure on parrotfish fisheries in Gizo Town, Western Solomon Islands, by analyzing the density and size distribution of parrotfish with an underwater visual census (UVC), recall diary (i.e., interviews with fishers), and creel surveys to independently assess changes in abundance and catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) over 2 years. We then compared parrotfish data from Gizo Town with equivalent data from sites open to and closed to fishing in Kida and Nusa Hope villages, which have different customary management regimes. Results indicated a gradient of customary management effectiveness. Parrotfish abundance was greater in customary management areas closed to fishing, especially with regard to larger fish sizes, than in areas open to fishing. The decline in parrotfish abundance from 2004 to 2005 in Gizo was roughly the same magnitude as the difference in abundance decline between inside and outside customary management marine reserves. Our results highlight how weak forms of customary management can result in the rapid decline of vulnerable fisheries around urbanized regions, and we present examples in which working customary management systems (Kinda and Nusa Hope) can positively affect the conservation of parrotfish—and reef fisheries in general—in the highly biodiverse Coral Triangle region.