Fisheries-Pelagic Environment

​The fisheries and larger scale marine food web related efforts will involve surveys throughout Saudi waters, and eventually the entire Red Sea. The analysis of fisheries catch statistics is part of the WHOI/KAUST effort that will be broadened to engage directly with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The establishment of moorings with echosounders will provide continuous observations of zooplankton and fish at selected sites. Food web studies by Berumen will most likely be carried out on reefs near Al-Lith, but also including sampling in key mangrove and seagrass areas along the coast, such as in Khor Al-Kharar (north of Thuwal). Berumen will also lead movement ecology studies of pelagic fishes, such as whale sharks and dogtooth tuna, using tagging and other monitoring equipment. Regular ‘hotspots’ of whale sharks have been identified near Al-Lith and near Al-Qunfidhah. This year (2010), a team will begin having a presence in Al-Lith from mid-March until June, with partners from WHOI participating in the tagging efforts. Preliminary results from whale sharks tagged last year seem to indicate surprisingly limited movement of the Red Sea whale shark populations. We are modifying our tagging study slightly to better study the movements of these fish within the Red Sea. Related studies carried out by Kaartvedt to investigate the plankton communities associated with whale shark movement patterns. Acoustic tagging and tracking of groupers, snappers, and/or other targeted reef fish will be carried out using acoustic arrays and tags will be deployed (annually: three 7-day trips for array deployment/maintenance and two 10-day trips for tagging). Acoustic tagging studies of these other reef fishes will allow us to optimize the design of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). KAUST intends to participate in the design and implementation of MPAs in the Red Sea, and such projects are most successful if based on information about the within- and among-reef movements of targeted species. . Berumen is also launching studies in the Red Sea to assess connectivity of fish populations. Collections for these studies have initially been designed to assess the population genetics of clownfish. The samples are currently being analyzed in a colleague’s genetics lab in France. Classic population genetics are used to get a rough idea of larval exchange among populations. If the circumstances are favorable, we will expand these studies to include actual tracking of individual larvae among reefs using microsatellite-based parentage analysis. Documenting ecologically and demographically relevant rates of larval exchange among reefs is by far the most powerful information available to inform design of MPAs.

Collaborators

  • Kaartvedt

  • Berumen

  • Irigoien