Aaron Savio Lobo

Alumnus, Oceans and Coasts



Aaron Savio Lobo worked with NCF until 2008 as part of the UNDP Post Tsunami Environment Initiative.  Aaron's work explored the economics of trawl fishing along the Coromandel Coast. This work was the basis of his doctoral thesis, which he completed from Cambridge University, UK.  Aaron currently works at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in New Delhi.




Chickenfeed (Completed)

The economics of trawl fishing along the Coromandel coast


  • Dataset
    Long-lived groupers require structurally stable reefs in the face of repeated climate change disturbances.
    Karkarey R, Kelkar N, Lobo AS, Alcoverro T, Arthur R (2014) Data from: Long-lived groupers require structurally stable reefs in the face of repeated climate change disturbances. Dryad Digital Repository. http://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.d7j02
  • Journal Article
    Long-lived benthic predators require structurally stable reefs in the face of repeated climate-change disturbances
    Coral Reefs. 33: 289-302

    Benthic recovery from climate-related disturbances does not always warrant a commensurate functional recovery for reef-associated fish communities. Here, we examine the distribution of benthic groupers (family Serranidae) in coral reef communities from the Lakshadweep archipelago (Arabian Sea) in response to structural complexity and long-term habitat stability. These coral reefs that have been subject to two major El Nin ̃o Southern Oscillation-related coral bleaching events in the last decades (1998 and 2010). First, we employ a long-term (12-yr) benthic- monitoring dataset to track habitat structural stability at twelve reef sites in the archipelago. Structural stability of reefs was strongly driven by exposure to monsoon storms and depth, which made deeper and more sheltered reefs on the eastern aspect more stable than the more exposed (western) and shallower reefs. We surveyed groupers (species richness, abundance, biomass) in 60 sites across the entire archipelago, representing both exposures and depths. Sites were selected along a gradient of structural complexity from very low to high. Grouper biomass appeared to vary with habitat stability with significant differences between depth and exposure; sheltered deep reefs had a higher grouper biomass than either sheltered shallow or exposed (deep and shallow) reefs. Species richness and abundance showed similar (though not significant) trends. More interestingly, average grouper biomass increased exponentially with structural complexity, but only at the sheltered deep (high stability) sites, despite the availability of recovered structure at exposed deep and shallow sites (lower-stability sites). This trend was especially pronounced for long-lived groupers (life span [10 yrs). These results suggest that long-lived groupers may prefer temporally stable reefs, independent of the local availability of habitat structure. In reefs subject to repeated disturbances, the presence of structurally stable reefs may be critical as refuges for functionally important, long-lived species like groupers.

  • Journal Article
    Opportunistic exploitation: an overlooked pathway to extinction
    Trevor A Branch, Aaron Savio Lobo, Steven W Purcell
    Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 28(7): 409-413

    PDF, 951 KB

    How can species be exploited economically to extinction? Past single-species hypotheses examining the economic plausibility of exploiting rare species have argued that the escalating value of rarity allows extinction to be profitable. We describe an alternative pathway toward extinction in multispecies exploitation systems, termed ‘opportunistic exploitation’. In this mode, highly valued species that are targeted first by fishing, hunting, and logging become rare, but their populations can decline further through opportunistic exploitation while more common but less desirable species are targeted. Effectively, expanding exploitation to more species subsidizes the eventual extinction of valuable species at low densities. Managers need to recognize conditions that permit opportunistic depletion and pass regulations to protect highly desirable species when exploitation can expand to other species.

  • Journal Article
    Commercializing bycatch can push a fishery beyond economic extinction
    Aaron Savio Lobo, Andrew Balmford, Rohan Arthur, Andrea Manica
    Conservation Letters 3: 277-285

    PDF, 255 KB

    Tropical bottom trawling is among the most destructive fishing practices, catch- ing large quantities of bycatch, which are usually discarded. We used question- naire surveys of trawl fishers to look at changes in catches over the last 30 years (1978–2008) along India’s Coromandel Coast. We show that catches and in- come from target species have declined sharply over the last two decades. Meanwhile, costs of fishing have increased substantially and now almost ex- ceed income from target species. Over the same period, bycatch (which was traditionally discarded) has now become increasingly marketable, being sold for local consumption, and as fish meal to supply the region’s rapidly growing poultry industry. Without this income from bycatch, the fishery would scarcely be economically viable. While such a change in the use of bycatch is good news in terms of reducing waste and improving livelihoods, it is also responsible for pushing the Indian bottom trawl fishery beyond the economic extinction of its target species.

  • Journal Article
    Trawling the shorelines
    Seminar. September 2010. Nature without Borders: A symposium on innovative approaches to conserving nature and wildlife

    Fishing  in India has grown exponentially. It is an industry adapting to its own economic impulses, keeping itself afloat – quite literally – by responding to changes in supply and demand, seeking new markets, repackaging its products and by-products to woo these new markets, reinventing itself constantly in order to survive. The upshot of this industrial inventiveness is that a system of production that should have been designated unsustainable years ago, continues to persist at an increasing ecological cost. And since all of this happens beneath the waves, it largely escapes the noisy debates over the vanishing wilds.

    In this paper we present a potted history of trawl fishing along the Indian coastline, and trace its ecological and economic fallout to coastal communities, both human and marine. We discuss the factors currently driving the economics of trawling within the Indian scenario, and explore potential directions towards a more meaningful management of this harvest. Our discussion focuses on fishery off the Coromandel coast, since that is the area we are most familiar with, but it is indicative of much of the rest of the Indian coastline.

  • Report
    Strategies for reducing bycatch of susceptible species
    Aaron Savio Lobo, M Santhanakrishnan, Vidya Iyer, Rohan Arthur
    Policy Brief. UNDP/UNTRS and NCF. Chennai

    PDF, 772 KB

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