5 years ago

Fishing-gear restrictions and biomass gains for coral reef fishes in marine protected areas

German Soler, Rick D. Stuart-Smith, Stuart J. Campbell, Amanda E. Bates, Graham J. Edgar
Strong empirical evidence supports recovery of reef fish populations with fishery closures. In countries where full exclusion of people from fishing may be perceived as inequitable, fishing gear restrictions on non-selective and destructive gears may offer socially relevant management alternatives to build recovery of fish biomass. Even so, very few studies have statistically compared the responses of tropical reef fisheries to alternative management strategies. Here we test for the effects of fishery closures and fishing gear restrictions on tropical reef fish biomass, at the community and family level, at 1,396 underwater surveys conducted at 617 unique sites across a spatial hierarchy within 22 global marine ecoregions representing five realms. We compare total biomass across local fish assemblages, and among 20 reef fish families inside marine protected areas (MPAs) with different fishing restrictions: no-take, hook and line fishing only, several fishing gears allowed, to sites open to all fishing gears. We include a further category representing remote sites where fishing pressure is low. As expected, full fishery closures, often referred to as ‘no-take’ zones, most benefit community and family level fish biomass in comparison with restrictions on fishing gears and openly fished sites. We further find that although biomass responses to fishery closures are highly variable across families, some fishery targets (e.g., Carcharhinidae, and Lutjanidae) respond positively to multiple restrictions on fishing gears (i.e., where gears other than hook and line fishing are not permitted). Remoteness also imparts a positive influence on the response of community level fish biomass and many fish families. Our findings provide strong support for the role of fishing restrictions in building recovery of fish biomass, and indicate important interactions among fishing gear types on removal of fish biomass among a range of reef fish families. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12996

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