Global trends on reef fishes’ ecology of fear: Flight initiation distance for conservation

José Anchieta C.C. Nunes*, Yuri Costa, Daniel T. Blumstein, Antoine O.H.C. Leduc, Antônio C. Dorea, Larissa J. Benevides, Cláudio L.S. Sampaio, Francisco Barros

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Escape behaviors have a great potential as an indicator of the efficacy of management. For instance, the degree of fear perceived by fishes targeted by fisheries is frequently higher in unprotected marine areas than in areas where some protection is provided. We systematically reviewed the literature on how fear, which we define as variation in escape behavior, was quantified in reef fishes. In the past 25 years, a total of 33 studies were identified, many of which were published within the last five years and nearly 40% of those (n = 13) focused on Indo-Pacific reefs, showing that there are still many geographical gaps. While eleven escape metrics were identified to evaluate fish escape, flight initiation distance (FID) was the most commonly employed (n = 23). FID was used to study different questions of applied and theoretical ecology, which involved 14 reef fish families. We also used a formal meta-analysis to investigate the effects of fishing by comparing FID inside and outside marine protected areas. Fishes outside MPAs had increased FID compared to those inside MPAs. The Labridae family had a significantly higher effect sizes than Acanthuridae and Epinephelidae, suggesting that fishes in this family may be indicators of effective MPAs using FID. We conclude that protocols aimed to quantify fear in fishes, which provide accurate assessments of fishing effects on fish escape behavior, will help gauge the compliance of marine protected areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-157
Number of pages5
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Publication statusPublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Conservation behavior
  • Ecology of fear
  • Reef fish conservation
  • Reef fishes ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution

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