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Large Pelagics in the Southern Section of the Seaflower Marine Protected Area, San Andres Archipelago, Colombia: A Fishery in Expansion

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Isolated and sparse reef atolls comprising the southern section of the Seaflower MPA have been traditionally exploited by artisanal fishers using handlines. These practices have severely depleted the demersal fish stock and now fishers have shifted their efforts to the pelagic stock. The pelagic fishery included the extraction of more than 25 species, with Thunnus atlanticus, Acanthocybium solandri, Coryphaena hippurus, and Katsuwonus pelamis being the most common. Three years of fishery-dependent data (2004–2006) were used to describe traditional fishing methods and techniques, and to document, for the first time, a declining trend in the large pelagic stock. Pelagic landings accounts for more than 70% of the total landings, and are extracting important fraction of the juveniles depending on the species. Significant changes in CPUE were associated with greater distance from port, although not in the expected order. The status of the large pelagic fish stocks in the archipelago is still unknown, but the results presented in this paper provide baseline information needed to determine the effectiveness of the recently established Seaflower MPA. They also illustrated how primitive gear can still produce a severe reduction in abundances of several stocks, particularly when exploiting remote, small, isolated atolls prone to a serial depletion phenomenon.

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