Though using explosives to catch fish, known as blast fishing, is outlawed in Indonesia, it is still used by fishermen looking to make a quick profit. Unfortunately, these underwater explosions destroy coral reefs, causing damage that is slow to heal. The damage this causes to coral reefs hurts tourism because tourists want to visit reefs, not rubble fields.
Blast or dynamite fishing creates a loss of sustainable fishery income, coastal protection, and tourism that is more than 50 times higher than the short-term benefits from the fish caught.
This extreme form of overfishing destroys not only the fish and invertebrate stocks, but the coral reefs themselves.
In the latest issue of Conservation Biology, researchers report on the effectiveness of different low-cost methods for coral reef rehabilitation in Komodo National Park, Indonesia.
Most transplantation and coral rehabilitation techniques are too costly and are inappropriate for the shifting rubble fields created by blast fishing in high current areas.
The researchers found that, "assuming there is an adequate larval supply, using rocks for simple, low-budget, large-scale rehabilitation appears to be a viable option for restoring the structural foundation of damaged reefs."
However, they also found that natural recovery was slow, highlighting the need for preventing blast fishing.
Despite being outlawed, blast fishing, which Indonesia banned in 1985, is still widespread.
Population growth, economic pressure, and declining catches often drive fisherman to destroy their resource base for a quick profit.
"Programs that successfully decrease this destructive fishing practice and restore value to the ecosystem are critical, both economically and biologically," the researchers conclude.
Conservation Biology is a top-ranked journal in the fields of Ecology and Environmental Science and has been called, "required reading for ecologists throughout the world."
It is published on behalf of the Society for Conservation Biology.
Helen Fox is a Marine Conservation Biologist and Senior Program Officer in the Conservation Science Program, World Wildlife Fund.
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