• fisher behaviour;
  • fisheries management;
  • marine protected areas;
  • meta-population model;
  • Plectropomus leopardus

Abstract  A spatially structured simulation model of the population dynamics and line fishing exploitation of common coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus Lacepède, was used to evaluate the effects of infringement and different amounts and arrangements of marine reserves on the Reef Line Fishery of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. With no marine reserves and under a constant future effort level equal to that for 1996, the size of the population was reduced and the biomass stabilised at about 40% of pre-exploitation levels. Marine reserves were ineffective at conserving biomass when limited infringement was allowed throughout an entire reserve. When infringement was absent altogether or limited to the edges of reserves, larger marine reserves lead to lower total catches and higher overall biomass. When infringement was limited to reserve edges, a single large closure was more effective at conserving biomass than more fragmented arrangements. Simulations suggested that marine reserves might lead to better conservation of a fishery-targeted species if infringement is negligible or limited to reserve margins. Even where infringement occurred only at the edges of reserves, a network of small reserves may be less effective at conserving a targeted species than a smaller number of larger reserves.