• coastal ecosystems;
  • illegal trade;
  • intrinsic vulnerability;
  • Macaronesia;
  • recreational fishing;
  • top predators


This study was conducted in São Miguel Island (Azores archipelago) providing the first evidence from Macaronesia of spear fishing impacts on fish communities. The shoreline was monitored during 10 months by access point surveys where 220 fishers were interviewed and 27 target fish species were identified. Mean sizes of top predators and highly vulnerable species were generally less than the respective minimum first maturation length. Species intrinsic vulnerability was moderate with an average of 46.7 (max. 100). There are indications that spear fishers, in the absence of high trophic level and larger species, target smaller and lower trophic level fish, atypical of a highly selective fishery. Daily bag limits were not respected in 36.9% of spear fishing operations and 59% of the catch from the area was illegally sold, a practice likely to have negative consequences for the commercial sector.