Diver effects on fishes

Jim Bohnsack Jim.Bohnsack at noaa.gov
Tue Oct 30 16:26:43 EST 2001

My observations indicate divers per se are considered just another fish
unless they are spearfishing or feeding fish.  Where spearfishing occurs
fishes learn to avoid divers, especially if they carry a spear.  Where
divers frequently feed fish they tend to swarm around divers initially
(unless spearfishing also occurs).  Below are two references that deal
with the topic.

This paper compares fish behavior on a reef with intense diving activity
(and fish feeding but no spearfishing or other extractive activities) to
a reef with virtually no diving activity:

 Bohnsack, J.A.  1998.  Reef fish response to divers in two ’no-take’
marine reserves in Hawaii.  Reef Encounter 23:22-24.

The following reference shows impacts of spearfishing on fish

 Bohnsack, J.A.  1982.  Effects of piscivorous predator removal on coral
reef fish community structure.  Pages 258-267 in G.M. Cailliet and C.A.
Simenstad (eds.), Gutshop’81: Fish Food Habits Studies.  Proc. 3rd
Pacific Tech.Workshop.  Washington Sea Grant.  University of Washington,

> Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 15:41:53 +0200
> From: "Bridget Armstrong"
> Subject: diver effects on fishes
> Dear all
> Is anyone aware of published information on the effects of divers on the =
> behaviour of large predatory reef fish ? There seems to be a widely-help =
> public perception that large numbers of divers cause predatory fish to =
> avoid the area, while the number of coral-associates (eg Butterflyfish) =
> tends to increase.
> Are there any coral-reef managers out there that zone reefs particularly =
> to provide areas where fish are protected from the effects of divers, as =
> opposed to protecting the coral itself from breakage/diseases ?
> Many thanks
> Bridget Armstrong
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