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COVID-19 lockdown highlights impact of recreational activities on the behaviour of coral reef fishes.

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Bertucci, Frédéric  ORCID logo
Siu, Gilles 


In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a reduction in human activities and restriction of all but essential movement for much of the world's population. A large, but temporary, increase in air and water quality followed, and there have been several reports of animal populations moving into new areas. Extending on long-term monitoring efforts, we examined how coral reef fish populations were affected by the government-mandated lockdown across a series of Marine Protected Area (MPA) and non-Marine Protected Area (nMPA) sites around Moorea, French Polynesia. During the first six-week lockdown that Moorea experienced between March and May 2020, increases (approx. two-fold) in both harvested and non-harvested fishes were observed across the MPA and nMPA inner barrier reef sites, while no differences were observed across the outer barrier sites. Interviews with local amateur and professional fishers indicated that while rules regarding MPA boundaries were generally followed, some subsistence fishing continued in spite of the lockdown, including within MPAs. As most recreational activities occur along the inner reef, our data suggest that the lockdown-induced reduction in recreational activities resulted in the recolonization of these areas by fishes, highlighting how fish behaviour and space use can rapidly change in our absence.


Funder: Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung


COVID-19, coral reefs, ecology

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R Soc Open Sci

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The Royal Society
Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-19-CE34-0006-Manini, ANR-19-CE14-0010-SENSO)
Bloomberg Philanthropies (Rāhui Forum and Resource Center)
Fondation de France (2019-08602)