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Exploring the Spatial Relationships between Resorts and Reef Fish in the Maldives

Abstract

Over the last few decades, the tourism industry in the Maldives has experienced exponential growth. This rise in tourism has created a new demand for reef fish and anecdotal reports indicate that exploitation of reef fish is increasing; however, currently, there is little monitoring of the reef fish fishery. This project integrated fish biomass data from underwater visual fish surveys with locations of resorts to examine correlations between fish populations and tourism development. Maps of human presence throughout the archipelago were used to classify surveyed reefs as community, resort or uninhabited. Spatial statistics and regression analysis suggest that distance to a resort has no significant impact on the amount of fish biomass found at nearby reefs. However, the breakdown of biomass by trophic level show an absence of apex predators across all sites, which likely indicates fishing pressure and resource exploitation of large-bodied species readily caught through hook and line fisheries. Additionally, a high level of herbivore biomass across all sites could be playing an important role in reef recovery. As the fishery develops and reef fish demand grows, the Maldives will need to create a management plan that allows for the recovery of apex predators, as well as protects the abundance of herbivores.

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