16 May 2012

Pacific study highlights importance of reef species in oceanic food chain

6:58 pm on 16 May 2012

A study by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community laboratory in Noumea has demonstrated the important connection between coastal areas and the open ocean in respect to the food chain.

The results are based on an examination of the contents of 8,000 tuna stomachs over ten years.

The head of the study, Dr Valerie Allain, says the Western Pacific contains an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of yellowfin tuna and says they eat nearly 800,000 tonnes of reef prey every year.

She says reef species play an important part in the diet of larger fish when they drift in the open ocean and says some of the reef organisms return having fed off the oceanic environment so the reefs also benefit.

"It's not a one way system, it works in both sides. So I guess the idea is we probably need to protect the reef but we also need to take care of the open oceans to make sure that everything evolves in a good way."

The SPC's Dr Valerie Allain