Fishery-independent data reveal negative effect of human population density on Caribbean predatory fish communities

PLoS One. 2009;4(5):e5333. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005333. Epub 2009 May 6.


Background: Understanding the current status of predatory fish communities, and the effects fishing has on them, is vitally important information for management. However, data are often insufficient at region-wide scales to assess the effects of extraction in coral reef ecosystems of developing nations.

Methodology/principal findings: Here, I overcome this difficulty by using a publicly accessible, fisheries-independent database to provide a broad scale, comprehensive analysis of human impacts on predatory reef fish communities across the greater Caribbean region. Specifically, this study analyzed presence and diversity of predatory reef fishes over a gradient of human population density. Across the region, as human population density increases, presence of large-bodied fishes declines, and fish communities become dominated by a few smaller-bodied species.

Conclusions/significance: Complete disappearance of several large-bodied fishes indicates ecological and local extinctions have occurred in some densely populated areas. These findings fill a fundamentally important gap in our knowledge of the ecosystem effects of artisanal fisheries in developing nations, and provide support for multiple approaches to data collection where they are commonly unavailable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caribbean Region
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fisheries*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Population Density*
  • Predatory Behavior*