Impacts of pollution, fishing pressure, and reef rugosity on resource fish biomass in West Hawaii

Shawna A. Foo, William J. Walsh, Joey Lecky, Stacia Marcoux, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Human activities and land-use drivers combine in complex ways to affect coral reef health and, in turn, the diversity and abundance of reef fauna. Here we examine the impacts of different marine protected area (MPA) types, and various human and habitat drivers, on resource fish functional groups (i.e., total fish, herbivore, grazer, scraper, and browser biomass) along the 180 km west coast of Hawaii Island. Across survey years from 2008 to 2018, we observed an overall decrease in total fish biomass of 45%, with similar decreases in biomass seen across most fish functional groups. MPAs that prohibited a combination of lay nets, aquarium collection, and spear fishing were most effective in maintaining and/or increasing fish biomass across all functional groups. We also found that pollution, fishing, and habitat drivers all contributed to changes in total fish biomass, where the most negative impact was nitrogen input from land-based sewage disposal. Fish biomass relationships with our study drivers depended on fish functional grouping. For surgeonfish (grazers), changes in biomass linked most strongly to changes in reef rugosity. For parrotfish (scrapers), biomass was better explained by changes in commercial catch where current commercial fishing levels are negatively affecting scraper populations. Our observations suggest that regional management of multiple factors, including habitat, pollution, and fisheries, will benefit resource fish biomass off Hawaii Island.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2213
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • fish biomass
  • functional group
  • habitat complexity
  • herbivore
  • local disturbance
  • marine protected area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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