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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.


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung; Id:


Ecology, conservation and global change biology, Research articles, coral reefs, COVID-19, ecology

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