Commercial fishermen may be able to catch more of the profitable fish they want with Marine Reserves than without them, according to a study in the journal PNAS led by the University of California, Davis. Marine reserves are a subset of Marine Protected Areas. Some MPAs allow fishing, but marine reserves are areas of the ocean closed to fishing and other extractive activities. While it may sound counterintuitive, the study shows that marine reserves can help avoid reductions of allowable catch. The end result is fishermen catch more of the fish they target while protecting the weaker fish that can be caught inadvertently by indiscriminate fishing gear. These untargeted fish are called bycatch, which is one of the most crippling challenges facing global fisheries.
Marine Reserves can keep the fishing going
The study illustrates the concept using Dover sole as a primary target species, and less profitable weaker stocks of Pacific Ocean perch, darkblotched rockfish, bocaccio and yelloweye rockfish. The model shows that managers can use marine reserves to maintain the weaker species at the levels needed while still allowing for substantial harvest of Dover sole.
“Ultimately, these reserves can keep the fishing going rather than shutting down a whole fishery to help these weaker species,” Hastings said.
The study suggests combining well-designed marine reserves with sensible management of the target fishery for broad economic and ecological benefits. “When reserves are well-designed to protect weaker species, you really can ‘have your fish and eat them too,’” said co-author Christopher Costello from UC Santa Barbara.
Understanding Marine Protected Areas
The study’s authors and other UC scientists helped inform the nation’s first statewide network of MPAs, which was completed in 2012 to conserve natural and cultural marine resources. MPAs serve many purposes, from recreation to rebuilding fish stocks and supporting sustainable marine fisheries. This study is part of ongoing research at UC Davis to better understand how well MPAs are working.
This study’s co-authors include Steven Gaines and Christopher Costello from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara.
The work received financial support from the National Science Foundation, American Museum of Natural History, Pew Charitable Trusts, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Waitt Family Foundation.
By: Kat Kerlin, UC Davis