Please select your home edition
Nanni Diesel 2019 Leaderboard

Status of Coral Reef Fishes in Guam

by NOAA Fisheries 27 Jun 17:46 UTC
A solitary longface emperor or lililok (Lethrinus olivaceus) swims over a Guam coral reef. © NOAA Fisheries / Kevin Lino

The longface emperor gets its name from its distinctive elongated head. Large emperors like this one are known as "lililok" in the indigeneous Chamorro language of the Mariana Islands.

They typically live for more than 20 years. Lililok are popular in fisheries, but their long lifespan makes them vulnerable to overfishing. It has been unclear just how lililok and other popular reef fish populations around Guam are doing—until now.

A new assessment of 12 Guam reef fish species suggests that overfishing is likely occurring for four species, including the longface emperor. Others are in much better condition. "Overfishing" means people are catching more than is sustainable given how many fish there are. This is different from "overfished," which means there are not enough of a certain fish in the sea. This assessment did not evaluate whether reef fish in Guam are overfished due to data limitations.

Many fish species that inhabit coral reefs around Guam are of great importance socially, culturally, and economically. Reef fish are a valuable source of food for local fishermen, hold significance in the Chamorro culture, and draw tourists to explore their underwater habitats.

Despite their importance to fisheries in Guam, there was little information on the population status of species such as the tataga' (bluespine unicornfish), loru (various parrotfishes), tarakitu (various jacks), and fafa'et (humpback snapper). To determine this information for fishery managers, we collected data on fish numbers, sizes, and biology. We compiled these data from diver surveys, life-history studies, and commercial and recreational fishery catch.

We used the distribution of body lengths of each species to calculate current fishing mortality rates. We combined this information with maximum known age, growth, and maturity data to calculate current stock condition. We then compared those conditions to well-established sustainability guidelines. This allowed us to provide information on which reef fish species are currently threatened by overfishing and to propose options for fisheries management.

Our findings suggest that some fish species may be experiencing overfishing. Generally, fish that live the longest or fish that are highly targeted by fisheries were in poorer condition. For example, lililok can live for decades, are a popular target for fisheries, and are currently experiencing overfishing. Compare that with species such as the island jack (tarakitu) that only live up to nine years and are in better condition.

Our assessment of 12 economically and culturally important species revealed that four are doing poorly and in need of effective management measures to support recovery:

  • Longface emperor (lililok)
  • Bluefin trevally (tarakitu)
  • Blacktail snapper (kaka'ka)
  • Redlip parrotfish (laggua)
Ultimately, this assessment generated management options for a range of overfishing risk levels. These options will help managers as they weigh the stock status, in combination with other concerns, to establish management measures.

Related Articles

Learning more about a big fish
Is one of the largest fish in the Gulf of Maine showing signs of recovery? For nearly three centuries Atlantic halibut off New England and Atlantic Canada were taken for food and sometimes discarded as a nuisance. Their fate depended on the market and just how numerous they were. Posted on 7 Dec
Bluefin Tuna - A valuable resource
Atlantic bluefin tuna are not subject to overfishing thanks to comprehensive, sustainable management Bluefin tuna is often used as a poster species for the impacts of overfishing. But we have good news for seafood lovers eyeing bluefin sashimi at their local sushi restaurant: U.S.-caught Atlantic bluefin tuna is a sustainable food choice. Posted on 5 Dec
U.S achievements at ICCAT
Several victories for our commercial and recreational fisheries Measures to reduce juvenile mortality of big eye tuna and advance observer safety also adopted. Read more in this leadership message from Drew Lawler, United States Commissioner to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. Posted on 29 Nov
Divers release endangered abalone into the wild
Outplanting places hundreds of juvenile abalone into their historic habitat At 7 a.m. on November 18, a dedicated group of scientific divers gathered on a southern California dock, loading their gear in preparation for a day of diving. Posted on 23 Nov
A Day in the Life of a fisheries observer
Free time is dream time As my contract comes to a close and the promise of home looms near, the divide between my life at home and my life up here widens, particularly when it comes to my solitary time. Posted on 7 Nov
Seafood and Human Health webinar
The science behind increasing consumption sustainably This September, the Seafood Nutrition Partnership will hold its annual State of the Science symposium on the latest in seafood dietary and nutritional studies and the social-economic implications for public health. Posted on 27 Sep
Sea Grant announces funds for research projects
The funded projects focus on three areas of need identified by Sea Grant Sea Grant announces $16 million in federal funding awards to support 42 research projects and collaborative programs aimed at advancing sustainable aquaculture in the United States. Posted on 26 Sep
New Sea Grant funding to American lobster industry
Funding for research aimed at understanding physical and chemical changes affecting American lobster Sea Grant announced new funding today for research aimed at understanding physical and chemical changes affecting American lobster (Homarus americanus) in the Gulf of Maine as well as a regional lobster extension program. Posted on 15 Sep
NOAA Fisheries to work with Maine lobster industry
Regional measures to reduce the risk of right whale serious injuries and deaths NOAA Fisheries is disappointed that the Maine Lobstermen's Association announced it is backing away from its commitment to regional measures to reduce the risk of right whale serious injuries and deaths. Posted on 12 Sep
Bottomfishes not as healthy as previously thought
Scientists assessed the stocks of bottomfish in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Stock assessment results differed among the regions. For the CNMI, the stock was healthy (not overfished and not experiencing overfishing). For Guam and American Samoa, the stocks were less healthy. Posted on 5 Sep
Marina Exchange FOOTER 1Nanni Diesel 2019 FooterRaymarine AUS Element HV FOOTER