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A combination of visual census and trap sampling in St. John, USVI indicated that traps performed better in gorgonian habitat than in adjacent coral reef habitat. Although most families were seen more commonly in coral habitat, they were caught more often in gorgonian areas. Traps probably fished more effectively in gorgonian habitats, especially for migrating species, because traps provided shelter in the relatively topographically uniform environment of gorgonian dominated habitats. Recently, trap fishermen on St. John have been moving effort away from traditionally fished nearshore coral reefs and into a variety of more homogeneous habitats such as gorgonian habitat. Consequently, exploitation rates of the already over-harvested reef fish resources may be increasing. Reef fish managers and marine reserve designers should consider limiting trap fishing in gorgonian habitats to slow the decline of reef fisheries.
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Management implications of fish trap effectiveness in adjacent coral reef and gorgonian habitats