Fish stock assessment of the northern New Caledonian lagoons : 1 – Structure and stocks of coral reef fish communities
Station marine d’Endoume, centre d’océanologie de Marseille, université de la Méditerannée, UMR 6540 Dimar, rue de la Batterie des Lions, 13007 Marseille, France
2 Centre IRD, BP A5, 98848 Nouméa cedex, New Caledonia
3 Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Reef fisheries assessment and management section, BP D5, 98848 Nouméa cedex, New Caledonia
Accepted: 8 March 2000
Lagoon fish in New Caledonia are mainly caught by artisanal fisheries and subsistence fishing. Reef fish are the major component of this catch. The present study aimed at estimating these reef fish standing stocks and at finding the main factors influencing the distribution of these fish. Sampling of 904 stations was stratified according to three zones (north, east and west) and three reef types (barrier, intermediate and fringing). Fish communities exhibited bold heterogeneity in their distribution, showing higher biomass (maximum of 447 g·m–2) and total standing stock (43000 tonnes) in the north zone than in the east and west zones. Similarly, observed patterns were dependent on reef types: higher biomass and total standing stock being observed on barrier reefs than on intermediate or fringing reefs. The total standing stocks, which were about 65000 t, were mainly composed of herbivorous fish families such as the Acanthuridae and Scaridae. The differences in the patterns of distribution of species, individuals and standing stocks between reef types may be explained by variations in terrestrial influences and reef morphology, whereas differences among zones were most likely due to accessibility of fishing areas and fishing pressure. The latter is almost non-existent in the north zone, which can thus be considered to be almost unexploited commercially. This most likely explains the high proportion, 77 %, of long-lived species in the biomass of this zone. The results might have implications in management of reefs elsewhere in the South Pacific, for which similar data are only scarcely available.
Key words: Reef fish / commercial demersal fish / population structure / New Caledonia / SW Pacific Ocean
© Elsevier, Inra, Ifremer, Cemagref, Ird, Cnrs, 2000