Fish Movement in the Red Sea and Implications for Marine Protected Area Design

  • Irene Antonina Salinas-Akhmadeeva

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The Red Sea is valued for its biodiversity and the livelihoods it provides for many. It now faces overfishing, habitat degradation, and anthropogenic induced climate-change. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) became a powerful management tool to protect vulnerable species and ecosystems, re-establish their balance, and enhance marine populations. For this, they need to be well designed and managed. There are 15 designated MPAs in the Red Sea but their level of enforcement is unclear. To design an MPA it is necessary to know if it will protect species of interest by considering their movement needs. In this thesis I aim at understanding fish movement in the Red Sea, specifically home range (HR) to inform MPA size designation. With not much empirical data available on HR for Red Sea fish, I used a Machine Learning (ML) classification model, trained with empirical literature HR measurements with Maximum Total Length (L Max), Aspect Ratio (AR) of the caudal fin, and Trophic Level as predictor variables. HR was classified into 5 categories: 20 km. The model presents a 74.5% degree of accuracy. With it, I obtained the HR category for 337 Red Sea fish species. Having MPAs with a maximum linear dimension of at least 10km will meet the requirements of 90% of fish species evaluated in the model, which were small to medium size families (damselfishes, butterflyfishes, small wrasses, cardinalfishes, gobies and blennies). This percentage does not include larger species likely to move over much greater distances (10s, 100s or 1000s of km) (e.g., medium to large jacks, snappers,, groupers, sharks and rays). 60% of the Red Seas designated MPAs have the potential, if enforced as a No Take Area (NTA), to benefit more than 95% of reef fishes. However, larger MPAs will be required to protect more wide-ranging species. TRSP project in Al Wadj is proposing to close the entire SEZ to fishing. If they are successful in implementing and enforcing this fishing ban, TRSP will be the largest no take area in the Red Sea (~160 km long) that is likely to not only protect all of the species evaluated in the model, but also most wide-ranging species. Therefore, TRSP is not only likely to achieve and surpass its stated goal of increasing current fish biomass by 30%, but also to provide benefits to surrounding areas through the spillover of adults, juvenile and larvae to fished areas.
Date of AwardApr 2021
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)


  • Marine Protected Areas
  • Fish movement
  • Home Range
  • Machine Learning
  • Red Sea
  • Management

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