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Declining fish supply linked to wildlife consumption in West Africa, Science study reports

nearly always occurred in bad fishing years, Brashares considered other phenomena that could be linked to bad fishing years.

"I wondered if I could uncover a signal linking fish supply to wildlife declines and the bushmeat trade," said Brashares.

While scientists had previously considered this possibility, there were no clear data linking fish supply to terrestrial conservation issues at large scales.

Brashares and colleagues began to pull the pieces together using long-term records of wildlife declines and hunting activity collected by wildlife rangers working in terrestrial wildlife reserves in Ghana.

The scientists report that the abundance of 41 species of wild carnivores, primates and herbivores (measured as biomass) in six nature reserves in Ghana declined by 76 percent from 1970 to 1998.

From 1976 to 1992, Brashares and his colleagues also saw that the number of reported bushmeat hunters in five wildlife reserves increased when regional fish supply dropped. In addition, bushmeat sales in 12 rural markets increased when fish supply in those same markets dropped. Together, these findings suggest that people substitute wildlife for fish in years of fish scarcity.

The researchers also report that fish supply and wildlife declines were related most closely in the wildlife reserves nearest the coast a finding that further strengthens the link between fish supply and the bushmeat trade. With nearly half of Ghana's human population of 20 million living within 100 kilometers of the Atlantic coast, the widespread loss of jobs and income associated with fishing harvests draws people to bushmeat hunting for both income and food, the authors concluded.

The authors propose the politically and ecologically difficult task of establishing alternative protein supplies in West Africa.

They also propose increases in the size, number and protection of wildlife reserves in Ghana and other parts of West Africa. Wh
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Contact: Jessica Lawrence-Hurt
jlawrenc@aaas.org
1-202-326-7088
American Association for the Advancement of Science
11-Nov-2004


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