Coral reef fisheries support the livelihoods of millions of people but have been severely and negatively affected by anthropogenic activities. We conducted a systematic review of published data on the biomass of coral reef fishes to explore how the condition of reef fisheries is related to the density of local human populations, proximity of the reef to markets, and key environmental variables (including broad geomorphologic reef type, reef area, and net productivity). When only population density and environmental covariates were considered, high variability in fisheries conditions at low human population densities resulted in relatively weak explanatory models. The presence or absence of human settlements, habitat type, and distance to fish markets provided a much stronger explanatory model for the condition of reef fisheries. Fish biomass remained relatively low within 14 km of markets, then biomass increased exponentially as distance from reefs to markets increased. Our results suggest the need for an increased science and policy focus on markets as both a key driver of the condition of reef fisheries and a potential source of solutions.
© 2012 Society for Conservation Biology.