Isaac Paulino, a fisherman and community conservation officer from Enipein Village on Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia, fishes for skipjack and yellowfin tuna several miles off the Enipein reef crest.

Working Group:
Ridges to Reef Fisheries

Increasing populations and economic development along coasts around the globe are leading to growing pressures on fisheries and other marine resources. To date, marine conservation has focused almost exclusively on reducing overfishing — despite the harmful impacts on marine ecosystems from terrestrial activities like farming and logging — because of a lack of data and models linking terrestrial and marine ecosystems. This working group will address these information gaps, allowing conservationists to better address the impact land-use changes have on fisheries.

Photo: Nick Hall | More Info
Andreas Muljadi of The Nature Conservancy monitors coral reefs in ocean waters off Kofiau island, part of the Raja Ampat Islands of Indonesia.
Photo: Jeff Jonover

Working Group Summary

Can Marine Management Incorporate Impacts from Sea and Land?

There are often more data available to conservationists on the impacts of overfishing than the impacts of land-based activities on marine resources. There is also a lack of integrated land-sea models and planning approaches for marine conservation. This working group will address these gaps by enhancing information on land-use impacts on fisheries, developing a model that can predict the effects of river run-off on coral reef fisheries and assessing how various management actions impact economic development, fisheries management, livelihoods and conservation.

Learn about the Challenge

Kirino Olpet spearfishing in the lagoon waters of Ant Atoll, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.
Photo: Nick Hall

The Challenge

The Threats from Land-Use Changes and Runoff to Fisheries

Approximately one-half the world’s population lives near the sea. Around the globe, marine resources including fisheries face increasing threats from development and a growing population. These issues are particularly acute when peoples’ livelihoods depend on fisheries, which sustain some of the world’s poorest people.

In many regions, people must increase the frequency and intensity of harvesting fish and commercially valuable invertebrates to meet their financial challenges. Economic pressures mean more land owners are increasing the land placed under commercial agriculture, and may also grant leases for logging and mining. These moves can lead to runoff that negatively impacts fisheries, placing even more pressure on coastal residents. The problems may be even more pronounced in places experiencing increasing rainfall (and thus increased runoff) from climate change.

Commercialization of resources endangers the ability of people to meet their future food security needs from fisheries, already under threat from subsistence fishing.  But to date, conservationists often do not take an integrated approach to management, and focus primarily on reducing overfishing.

Management plans for marine and terrestrial resources must consider how and where human activities impact fisheries and livelihoods they support. This working group provides the information for marine conservationists to make the best decisions possible for management plans.

Read about the Inquiry

Bay near Koror, Palau.

The Inquiry

Helping Managers Understand Land-to-Sea Connections

Working Group Goals

1. Enhance and synthesize information about land-use impacts on fisheries by conducting analyses of existing data to quantify the relationship between land-use change, river run-off, habitat loss and fishery production.

2. Develop a model that can predict how and where river run-off affects coral reef fisheries, ensuring that the model is flexible so it can be adapted to consider a variety of land uses and fisheries, especially in data-poor regions.

3. Develop an approach that prioritizes management decisions, ensuring that any such decisions take into account connections between land and sea.

Key Questions

  • What is the impact of different land-uses on fisheries and coastal livelihoods?
  • Where are the most cost-effective priorities for management intervention —on the land and sea — to secure fisheries and livelihoods?
  • Can the positive impacts of traditional fisheries management actions offset the negative impacts from land-based activities under different climate change and socio-economic scenarios?
  • What is the consequence of land- and sea-based policy change on coastal fisheries?

Proposed Activities

1. Conduct a meta-analysis of land-use impacts

  • Synthesize disparate data sources on individual processes that address impacts from land and sea.
  • Develop multiple data-based models that link climate and weather, land-use change, water quality, habitat quality and fisheries production.
  • Integrate existing data sets with new data from field experiments.

2. Conduct field experiments, which may include:

  • Completing a study demonstrating how poor land-based practices affect bumphead parrotfish — an important food species — in the Kia District of the Solomon Islands.
  • Measuring the differences in vulnerability on coastal fisheries and social factors based on a variety of land-based influences on Fiji.
  • Completing a study on the impacts of palm oil on fisheries on Papua New Guinea.

3. Develop a model for predicting land-based impacts to fisheries.

  • Develop the model based on the habitat dependency of different fish species and information on land-based impacts to habitats to estimate fishery catch potential.

4. Develop a “return on investment” framework to identify priority management actions (land or sea) to achieve a planning goal.

  • The return will be measured based on the benefits of managing land to fisheries relative to converting it to a proposed land use.

The researchers will evaluate a range of current and future land-use scenarios to determine trade-offs between economic development, conservation, fisheries and livelihoods.

Meet the Team

Photo: Ian Shive | More Info

The Team

The Ridges to Reef Fisheries Team

SNAP