More scientific support for no-take fish zones

In our ongoing efforts to restore the seriously depleted bottom fish of the Strait and Sound, discussions on establishing no-take zones have been highly controversial. Here is more scientific proof that these zones can help restore fish stocks.

Abstract: No-take marine reserves are effective management tools used to restore fish biomass and community structure in areas depleted by overfishing. Cabo Pulmo National Park (CPNP) was created in 1995 and is the only well enforced no-take area in the Gulf of California, Mexico, mostly because of widespread support from the local community. In 1999, four years after the establishment of the reserve, there were no significant differences in fish biomass between CPNP (0.75 t ha−1 on average) and other marine protected areas or open access areas in the Gulf of California. By 2009, total fish biomass at CPNP had increased to 4.24 t ha−1 (absolute biomass increase of 3.49 t ha−1, or 463%), and the biomass of top predators and carnivores increased by 11 and 4 times, respectively. However, fish biomass did not change significantly in other marine protected areas or open access areas over the same time period. The absolute increase in fish biomass at CPNP within a decade is the largest measured in a marine reserve worldwide, and it is likely due to a combination of social (strong community leadership, social cohesion, effective enforcement) and ecological factors. The recovery of fish biomass inside CPNP has resulted in significant economic benefits, indicating that community-managed marine reserves are a viable solution to unsustainable coastal development and fisheries collapse in the Gulf of California and elsewhere.

In addition to the aforementioned conservation benefits, well-enforced marine reserves help reduce local poverty and increase the economic revenue of coastal communities [15], [16]. Protected areas with locally managed resources and stakeholder buy-in can be more successful than areas with top down, federally mandated preservation [see 17]. However, marine reserve agendas have faced considerable opposition from different sectors of the society (e.g. commercial and recreational fisheries), only 0.1 percent of the world’s ocean is completely protected from extractive activities, and most reserves suffer from poor management and enforcement [18], [19]. Moreover, the long-term success of marine reserves is a social issue that requires strong local leadership, social cohesion, involvement and effective self-enforcement within the community, and inter-generational coordination[20], [21].

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