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Marine reserves a boon to fishermen, research shows


March 29 2011 Fish2Fork


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Marine reserves bring dramatic improvements not just in the number of fish within them but in the catches fishermen make outside them, a succession of scientific studies has shown.

Giving fish and other marine animals a safe refuge where they can live without disturbance allows them to increase in abundance, size and species diversity.

And the increase in stock within the marine reserve will, given time, spill over into surrounding areas where fishermen can benefit from their abundance and size.

Researchers analysing more than 150 scientific studies from around the world concluded that fishermen have a strong interest in the creation of marine reserves, where fishing is banned.

"Recent research suggests that a properly designed network of marine reserves can lead to both conservation and fisheries benefits," they said. "This is because profitable fisheries depend directly on ecosystems that are healthy and resilient over the long term.

"After a marine reserve is established, fishing revenues may drop in the short term unless catches in another area can compensate. In a matter of years, the growth and reproduction of fishes and invertebrates in a marine reserve may boost fishing revenues."

A study of two reserves in Southern Europe found that each created 54 jobs and that the commercial fishing around them was worth more than £630,000-a-year to local economies and that there was the potential for more through encouraging tourism.

In the Western Mediterranean where there were six reserves it was found that the total biomass of fish and other marine life was 4.7 times bigger inside the reserve than outside it and that the average weight of individual fish was 3.4 times bigger. The effects were so noticeable that fishermen deliberately travelled close to the edge of the reserve to catch the fish as they spilled out into the wider area.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), where fishing is controlled to some extent, were found to be less effective than Marine Reserves but where conservation was effectively managed they could make a huge difference. One MPA cited in Europe was Torre Guaceto, off the Italian coast, where two years after effective enforcement began the sea bream were up to ten times as abundant as outside the zone.

Off the Isle of Man the inshore scallop fishery, where trawlers and dredgers were banned, was found in 2003 to have scallops that were seven times bigger than those outside.

Heavily fished species were found to have experience some of the most dramatic bounce-backs when given the breathing space of a marine reserve, which was considered to be to the fishermen’s advantage.

The extra size that fish in reserves can reach is thought to be a vital element of increased abundance. One study revealed that a 40cm seabass would produce 230,000 young whereas if they grew to 80cm long they would produce 3.3 million.

Dr Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, of Orgeon State University, oversaw the analysis of peer-reviewed studies for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (Pisco), and said the evidence was such that fishermen should take note and "consider" the benefits reserves could bring them.

Researchers from Pisco concluded in a booklet, The Science of Marine Reserves, concentrating on European waters, that: "Scientific evidence clearly shows that people are causing a decline in the ocean’s health. Marine reserves have proved to be an effective way to protect habitats and biodiversity in the ocean. While marine reserves are not a cure-all they are important for sustaining ocean life and human well-being.

"Inside marine reserves, the abundance, diversity, biomass and size of fishes , invertebrates and seaweeds usually increase dramatically. Species that are commercially targetted show the biggest changes, sometimes increasing by ten or 20 times in marine reserves."

However, the authors warned that the benefits can easily be destroyed: "Ecological benefits that build up over decades can be wiped out in a years or two in a marine reserve is not maintained or enforced."

The report comes as the UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is consulting on the creation of Marine Conservation Zones - marine reserves in which some damaging activities are likely to be banned - around England's coast.


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1 Responses to  "Marine reserves a boon to fishermen, research shows"

Gerry O'Rourke Says:

Brilliant, lets hope people can be convinced that this is a very important way forward..


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