Science to Support Marine Resource Management in Maui

Parrot Fish
Species of reef-grazing fish-like the parrotfish pictured here-that play important roles in maintaining ecosystem balance now receive increased protection under Maui's new fishing rules.
Photo credit: R. Sparks, Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources

New parrotfish and goatfish management rules in Maui seek to strike a balance between commercial fishing and conservation.

Recent fishing rules signed by Hawaii's governor highlight how important solid science is to effective ecosystem-based management practices. The rules cap the number of parrotfish and goatfish caught in Maui's waters.

They include a limit of no more than two parrotfish per person per day and prohibit the "take" of certain species of large male parrotfish. There are also limits to the number of certain goatfish species that can be harvested per day.

Science and Community Driven Management

The management decision was supported by over a decade of fish survey data. Marine resource managers in Maui combined years of their own fish monitoring data with a larger body of statewide data collected by NOAA researchers to get a better idea of the status of these important coral reef species around Maui.

What they found was that large parrotfish, particularly male parrotfish, were mostly absent from shallow reefs where they play a key role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. These fish species actively graze the reef, controlling algae and creating suitable habitat for new coral recruits to establish themselves and begin to grow.

These findings echoed what many in the fishing community already knew. Members of Maui's fishing community actively engaged in management discussions and public meetings about a potential bag rule from the earliest stages. Their concerns, together with strong scientific support, ultimately helped drive the overall development of the rules.

Striking a Balance

The goal of the management decisions is not to hurt or eliminate commercial fishing but to conserve important species for subsistence take first, while allowing commercial harvest that conforms to the bag limits.

Managers hope these rules will curb the overharvest of large parrotfish and goatfish and ultimately improve the condition of Maui's shallow-water coral reef ecosystems.

Partners for this effort:

Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, Pacific Islands Regional Office, and others.

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