Biology Faculty Articles


Reef fish assemblages and fisheries in Parque Nacional del Este, Dominican Republic

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Proceedings of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute


Reef fish, fisheries management, marine reserves





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Parque National del Este is the second largest protected area in the Dominican Republic, comprising 110 km2 of terrestrial habitats located in the southeastern Dominican Republic. Established in 1975, the park delineation did not include the adjacent marine area, despite its long history of commercial fisheries. Since 1994, several U.S. and Dominican partner organizations have conducted scientific investigations of the marine resources of the area. This paper provides data on the status of snapper and groupers reef assemblages and finfish fisheriescollected during 1995 1997. Methods used in the study included: 1) visual transects (20 m x 5 m) of predatory fishes in coral reef habitats and 2) fishermen interviews to obtain data on fishing methods and catch composition. Predatory fishes, particularly groupers and snappers, are rare and generally small (< 30 cm TL). Larger size snappers (Lutjanus griseus, L. analis) and groupers (Mycreroperca bonaci, M. tigris and M. venenosa) were absent in the visualtransect surveys. Only two Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) were found in 142 transects among 7 reef areas. Among groupers, red hind (E. guttatus), coney (E. fulvus) and graysby (E. cr ue nt atu s) dominated the grouper assemblage in visual transect surveys, as well as in fishermen’s catch. Yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus) was the most abundant snapper species in reefs and in fishermen’s catch. Fishermen interviews (n = 120) showed that hook-and-line, traps, and spears were the most commonly used methods. The catch composition reflects the artisanal nature of the fishery. A significant alteration of the park’s fish assemblages due to overfishing is apparent. The designation of zones with different degree of protection (including a no-take zone) is recommended. This plan includes specific regulations on the use of fishing gears, and others regarding minimum size, closed season. These measures should be included in the oncoming Coastal Management Plan, and will allow to: i) evaluate the potential for fisheries recovery ii) protect what little spawning stock biomass remains in the area, and iii) protect nursery grounds important for juvenile stages. There are few data on the potential contribution of up-current areas (Eastern Caribbean) to reef fish recruitment in the park. A research program addressed to this subject is also recommended.

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