Conservation benefits of marine reserves for fish populations

Authors

  • Iago Mosquera,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
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    • Renewable Resources Assessment Group, T. H. Huxley School of Environment, Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BP, UK

  • Isabelle M. Côté,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
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  • Simon Jennings,

    1. Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, NR33 0HT, UK
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  • John D. Reynolds

    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
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Isabelle M. Côté, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK. Tel: +44 1603 593172; Fax: +44 1603 592250; E-mail: i.cote@uea.ac.uk.

Abstract

We synthesize the results of empirical studies of marine reserves to assess the potential benefits of protection for fish populations. Our meta-analyses demonstrate that the overall abundance of fishes inside reserves is, on average, 3.7 times higher than outside reserve boundaries. This enhancement is mainly a result of a significant increase in abundance of species that are the target of fisheries. Non-target species are equally abundant inside and outside reserves. Large-bodied species also respond more to protection, irrespective of their fishery status. Species within genera show great heterogeneity in their response to protection despite similarities in their life histories. Our study confirms that marine reserves benefit fish populations and highlights the need for monitoring prior to reserve establishment to provide more accurate, habitat-controlled studies of the effects of marine reserves on fish populations.

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