Fear of fishers: Human predation explains behavioral changes in coral reef fishes
Prey flight decisions in response to predation risk are increasingly being considered in conservation and management decisions in the terrestrial realm, but are rarely considered in marine systems. This field-based study investigated how the behavioral response of coral reef fish families varied along a gradient of subsistence fishing pressure in Papua New Guinea. Specifically, we examined how fishing pressure was related to pre-flight behavior and flight initiation distance (FID), and whether FID was influenced by body size (centimeters total length), group size (including both con- and hetero-specific individuals), or life-history phase. Fishing pressure was positively associated with higher FID, but only in families that were primarily targeted by spear guns. Among these families, there were variable responses in FID; some families showed increased FID monotonically with fishing pressure, while others showed increased FID only at the highest levels of fishing pressure. Body size was more significant in varying FID at higher levels of fishing pressure. Although family-level differences in pre-flight behavior were reported, such behavior showed low concordance with fishing pressure. FID shows promise as a tool by which compliance and effectiveness of management of reef fisheries can be assessed. © 2011 Januchowski-Hartley et al.
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