CELS professor awarded $3 million USAID grant to study coral reef fisheries in Indonesia

URI Assistant Professor Austin Humphries counts coral in Indonesia as part of a USAID-funded project to study coral reef fisheries. (Photo by Karizma Fahlevy.)

Food security is a serious concern in Indonesia, where delicate coral reef ecosystems provide fish and livelihood for over three million fishermen. But their catch is declining with many fisheries being overexploited and management of the fishery needs improvement.

That’s where the University of Rhode Island’s Austin Humphries comes in. The assistant professor of fisheries is leading a team that has been awarded a $3 million grant by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The research will identify fishery management strategies which maintain and protect the ecosystem while also ensuring that fish are available for consumption. While conducting this research, a primary objective is to train Indonesian scientists, and in particular women, to conduct research on coral reef fisheries.

“A large proportion of Indonesian communities are dependent on coral reefs for food,” said Humphries. “As these fisheries are feeling the heat from global stressors like coral bleaching, declines in fish catch are a major issue for subsistence and food security. Creating holistic evaluations of new and existing fishery management schemes is becoming more and more important to ensure sustainability over the long-term.”

According to Humphries, Indonesia has the most biodiverse coral reefs in the world, and half of the world’s six million small-scale coral reef fishermen are in Indonesia. The country’s government is trying to implement an ecosystem-based fishery management system that will examine the impact of fisheries in the context of a healthy ecosystem while also considering the social context in which the fisheries operate.

“Indonesia is one of the first countries in the world that’s taking steps towards formalizing a holistic management plan for coral reef fisheries that considers multiple components of the ecosystem,” he said. “This project will provide the government with vital information for that initiative.”…[Read more]