1. Recreational diving is a concern regarding its effects on benthic assemblages, especially on heavily dived coral reefs. However, spearfisher behaviour and the scale of damage they cause to corals remains unknown.
2. The behaviour of recreational spearfishers was observed to determine their rate of physical contacts with corals. The experience level and fishes captured by spearfishers were assessed to establish their relationship with the number of contacts with corals.
3. All spearfishers made contact with corals, at an average rate of 1.25 ± 0.1 SE touches per minute and caused physical damage at a rate 0.51 ± 0.04 per minute. Massive corals were most frequently touched and branching corals were most frequently damaged. Touches and damage occurred mainly through fin kicks, spearfisher bodies and spearguns. Contact rates varied according to spearfisher experience level and the fish they were targeting. Novice spearfishers showed no preference for specific targets while experienced spearfishers target mesopredator fishes.
4. Spearfishing caused the highest known rates of touches and damage to corals among all the activities involving recreational diving. The activity may add to local stressors on corals, especially at sites with high visitation rates. Understanding how the factors that affect spearfisher behaviour and their effects on corals may help managers to develop strategies to mitigate the incidence of damaging behaviour.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems|
|Early online date||14 Jul 2017|
|Publication status||Published - Feb 2018|