Marine Protected Areas and Stock Recovery

Marine Reserves are one of the most effective ways of enabling a fish stock recovery. They are a key recommendation of the International Programme of the State of the Oceans and are backed up by  experience across the world. Cabo Pulmo National Park, a no-take area in Mexico, has been especially successful in stock restoration. A new report argues that the strong community management played an important role in this.

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.

Originally found on the excellent CFP Reform-Watch.

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