Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science

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Effect of Recreational Fish Feeding on Reef Fish Community Composition and Behaviour

G Hémery, T R McClanahan


Feeding fish with bread or other food is widely used by tour operators to enhance
human-animal interactions in coral reefs. Little is known, however, about the effects of
recreational fish feeding on fish community structure and fish behaviour. These two issues
were examined in this study within three marine protected areas of Kenya by comparing data from sites frequently used to feed fish and control sites not frequently visited by tour operator. The effects of feeding on community structure and fish behaviour were investigated through underwater visual surveys and fish feeding experiments, using bread. The numbers of individuals and species of fish at the feeding sites were higher than at control sites. This result suggests that the abundance of bread-feeding fish does not significantly negatively effect non-bread feeder population or total biodiversity. The main result of the fish behaviour study was that the reaction to bread at feeding sites was quicker than at control sites, which indicates that some species learn to feed on this novel source of food.

Keywords:human-animal interactions, reef fish, recreational fish feeding, tourism impacts, MPAs, coral reefs, Kenya

West Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science Vol. 4 (2) 2005: pp. 123-134

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