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Comparison of modern and historical fish catches (AD 750-1400) to inform goals for marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries
McClanahan, T. R.; Omukoto, J.O. (2011). Comparison of modern and historical fish catches (AD 750-1400) to inform goals for marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries. Conserv. Biol. 25(5): 945-955. dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01694.x
In: Conservation Biology. Wiley: Boston, Mass.. ISSN 0888-8892; e-ISSN 1523-1739
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Africa, fish bones, fisheries closures, historical ecology, Indian Ocean, no-take reserves, trophic cascades, zooarchaeology

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  • McClanahan, T. R.
  • Omukoto, J.O.

Abstract
    We tested the unsustainable fishing hypothesis that species in assemblages of fish differ in relative abundance as a function of their size, growth rates, vagility, trophic level, and diet by comparing species composition in historical bone middens, modern fisheries, and areas closed to fishing. Historical data came from one of the earliest and most enduring Swahili coastal settlements (approximately AD 750-1400). Modern data came from fisheries near the archeological site and intensively harvested fishing grounds in southern Kenya. The areas we sampled that were closed to fishing (closures) were small (<28 km(2)) and permanent. The midden data indicated changes in the fish assemblage that are consistent with a weak expansion of fishing intensity and the unsustainable fishing hypothesis. Fishes represented in the early midden assemblages from AD 750 to 950 had longer life spans, older age at maturity, and longer generation times than fish assemblages after AD 950, when the abundance of species with longer maximum body lengths increased. Changes in fish life histories during the historical period were, however, one-third smaller than differences between the historical and modern assemblages. Fishes in the modern assemblage had smaller mean body sizes, higher growth and mortality rates, a higher proportion of microinvertivores, omnivores, and herbivores, and higher rates of food consumption, whereas the historical assemblage had a greater proportion of piscivores and macroinvertivores. Differences in fish life histories between modern closures and modern fishing grounds were also small, but the life histories of fishes in modern closures were more similar to those in the midden before AD 950 because they had longer life spans, older age at maturity, and a higher proportion of piscivores and macroinvertivores than the modern fisheries. Modern closures and historical fish assemblages were considerably different, although both contained species with longer life spans.

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