Washington State University: Ka‘ohe Bay Assessment

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Tissot Benthic Ecology Laboratory at Washington State University Vancouver conducted a comprehensive ecological assessment of Ka‘ohe Bay, Hawaii.  The State of Hawaii proposed the implementation of Ka‘ohe Bay as a Fish Replenishment Area (FRA) in spring 2013, which would ban all aquarium fish collections and recreational fish feeding within the bay.  The aquarium fishery is the most extensive fishery on Hawaii Island, and Ka‘ohe Bay is a preferred collection spot due to its extensive coral reef habitat and abundance of juvenile fishes. The main goals of this project were to: 1) Conduct baseline reef fish and benthic surveys at 5 meter depth intervals from 3-50+ meters, 2) Provide the State of Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) with all baseline survey data and provide analyses of the abundance and distribution of juvenile and adult aquarium fishes and their preferred habitats, and 3) Actively discuss with DAR and Ka‘ohe Bay community about data needs and the findings of this project.

It is expected that the implementation of Ka’ohe Bay as a Fish Replenishment Area will both increase fish abundance within the bay as well as outside the bay to surrounding reefs. In addition, the protected status will greatly help to reduce current conflicts between local residents and aquarium fishers. The data collected from this project will provide a baseline estimate of aquarium fish abundance and distribution that will aid in determining the conservation impact of Ka‘ohe Bay’s FRA designation. Before implementation of this project, DAR had no quantitative information about reef fish abundance or habitat at Ka‘ohe Bay.

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