Unsustainable fishing practices threaten biodiversity, conservation, economic and social outcomes. Marine Protected Areas –and marine reserves, in which all extractive efforts are prohibited– are frequently implemented to aid in the recovery of fish and invertebrate stocks by limiting or restricting fishing effort and gears. While widely adopted as conservation strategies, I am more interested in their utility as fishery management tools.
Theory tells us that by reducing fishing effort, populations in the bounded area should rebound. More abundant and larger organisms within the reserve should export offspring to adjacent waters; adult organisms could also move out of the invisible boundaries and into fishing grouds. However, evidence that marine reserves can have this ecosystem-level effect that would benefit fisheries is limited. Furthermore, closing an area to fishing causes fishers to move elsewhere, but findings of redistribution are ambiguous. When livelihoods of fishers like the team in the picture above are at stake, it is important to base conservation and management actions on solid evidence of their effectiveness.
Through a combination of ecological and economic theory, I aim to better understand the mechanisms that govern marine reserve functioning, and provide management recommendations as to when, where, and how to implement marine reserves that meet conservation goals while producing (or maintaining) benefits to fisheries.
Work in progress includes: