Thursday, 1 September 2011

Large Recovery of Fish Biomass in a No-Take Marine Reserve

Enric Sala, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, Exequiel Ezcurra, the director of the University of California Riverside Institute for Mexico and the United States, and colleagues have published a paper in the 12 August 2011 issue of PLoS ONE in which they discuss no-take marine reserves as effective management tools 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,” they write. “In 1999, four years after the establishment of the reserve, there were no significant differences in fish biomass between CPNP 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 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 authors conclude that 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 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.

To read a news story about the paper, go to: