Rohan Arthur is a senior scientist and founding trustee of the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) in Karnataka, India. He heads NCF’s Oceans and Coasts program, an interdisciplinary group that works on a range of issues, including understanding human-wildlife interactions in aquatic environments.
Tropical coral reefs face an uncertain future because of the harmful effects of global climate change and other stressors such as overfishing. Understanding why some reefs can withstand these disturbances while others succumb to them is critical to managing the ecosystems in a manner that maximizes their resilience.
In his Pew fellowship project, Arthur sought to better understand the contribution of fish to reef resilience. India’s Lakshadweep Archipelago offered an ideal situation to examine these factors, even though it is densely populated with humans. For decades, Lakshadweep fishermen focused on tuna rather than species that dwell in the reefs, such as parrot, grouper, and snapper fish. This incidental reduction in reef fishing pressure led to an abundance of those reef species and appears to have been critical to the resilience that Lakshadweep has shown to other harmful events. However, as tuna populations decline, shifts in global markets and uncertainties in pelagic tuna stocks are making fishermen look again to reef fishing as an economic alternative. Arthur’s project focused on engaging with local fishing communities to discuss the short- and long-term costs and benefits of reef fishery choices.
The information Arthur gathered has been used to support management options in light of changing resource and fishing pressures. Identifying and measuring fish abundance and function in the ecosystem helped determine the role of fish in reef resistance and recovery from stress factors. He hopes this work will result in fishing choices that are informed by an ecologically sound understanding of reef resilience.
To learn more about Arthur, visit http://ncf-india.org/people/rohan-arthur.