Contrasting patterns in the abundance of fish communities targeted by fishers on two coral reefs in southern Mozambique
Coastal populations of maritime countries in eastern Africa rely on fish as a primary source of protein, but baseline information on the abundance of fish communities on these coastlines is often lacking. We used baited remote underwater video stations to compare the abundance and diversity of reef fishes targeted by fishing at two sites in southern Mozambique, one at Lighthouse Reef within the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park and the other to the south at San Sebastian Reef on the San Sebastian Peninsula. Fish that are known targets of fisheries (mostly small-scale and artisanal) had an abundance that was almost three-times greater at San Sebastian Reef (80.22 ind. h–1 [SE 18.00]) than at Lighthouse Reef (29.70 ind. h–1 [SE 8.91]). Similarly, there was greater mean species richness at San Sebastian Reef (38.74 species h–1 [SE 2.79]) than at Lighthouse Reef (25.37 species h–1 [SE 3.66]). The main drivers of targeted fish abundance were habitat and depth, with shallow (<15 m) and mixed reef areas having the greatest abundance and richness. More sampling was done over sand habitat at Lighthouse Reef, which likely led to the lower abundance and species richness observed at this site; however, that finding could also be attributable to the fact that protection is provided to only a section of available coral reef habitat in a small area. Nevertheless, fish community structure was comparable between the sites, with similar proportions of carnivores (78–81%), herbivores (12–14%) and omnivores (7–8%). Our findings highlight the variation in species abundance and assemblages of coral-reef fish targeted by fishing in Mozambique and emphasise the importance of localised environmental variables as a driver of these patterns. To ensure maximum protection of Lighthouse Reef fish communities, we recommend an extension of the no-take zone to include the entire reef complex.
Keywords: baited remote underwater video, Bazaruto Archipelago, biodiversity, fish community structure, fishing pressure, marine reserve, rarefaction curves, western Indian Ocean