Marine protected areas (MPAs) can rapidly increase fish stocks without disadvantaging fishers reports a paper published in Nature Communications this week. The work could help towards improving the acceptance of MPAs as a viable fisheries management option.
MPAs are regions in which restrictions are placed on human activity in order to conserve or reinstate the natural environment and its occupant ecosystems. The impact of MPAs on fishery dynamics is, however, poorly documented and their benefits to fishers have been questioned. An economic argument against the use of MPAs as a fishery management tool has been that they initially reduce catch and could permanently increase the distance that fishers need to travel.
Svan Kerwath, Colin Attwood and colleagues use 15 years of nationwide data to show that the establishment of the Goukamma MPA, located east of Cape Town, South Africa, benefitted the adjacent fishery for Chrysoblephus laticeps - a seabream native to the area. Total catch in this area decreased from 1985 but the team report that fish numbers started to increase in 1991, one year after the MPA was implemented. Alongside this increase in catch, they find no evidence that the establishment of the MPA caused a drop in total catch or increased travel distances for fleet or fisherman.
This analysis of fishery dependent data from South Africa suggests that the Goukamma MPA succeeded in achieving fishery management and conservation objectives. The authors therefore conclude that fisheries in the vicinity of MPAs can recover rapidly after their implementation, possibly without negative consequences for fishers.
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