• Corresponding Editor: P. K. Dayton


The utility of no-take marine reserves as fisheries-management tools is controversial. It is hypothesized that marine reserves will help to sustain fisheries external to them by becoming net exporters of adults (the “spillover effect”) and net exporters of propagules (the “recruitment effect”). Local fishery benefits from spillover will likely generate support from fishing communities for marine reserves. We used underwater visual census to show that biomass of Acanthuridae (surgeonfish) and Carangidae (jacks), two families of reef fish that account for 40–75% of the fishery yield from Apo Island, Philippines, tripled in a well-protected no-take reserve over 18 years (1983–2001). Biomass of these families did not change significantly over the same period at a site open to fishing. The reserve protected 10% of the total reef fishing area at the island. Outside the reserve, biomass of these families increased significantly closer to (200–250 m) than farther away from (250–500 m) the reserve boundary over time. We used published estimates of fishery catch and effort, and fisher interviews (creel surveys) to show that the total catch of Carangidae and Acanthuridae combined at Apo Island was significantly higher after (1985–2001) than before (1981) reserve establishment. Hook-and-line catch per unit effort (CPUE) at the island was 50% higher during 1998–2001 (reserve protected 16–19 years) than during 1981–1986 (pre-reserve and early phases of reserve protection). Total hook-and-line effort declined by 46% between 1986 and 1998–2001. Hook-and-line CPUE of Acanthuridae was significantly higher close to (within 200 m) than far from the reserve. CPUE of Carangidae was significantly higher away from the reserve, possibly reflecting a local oceanographic effect. The benefits of the reserve to local fisheries at the island were higher catch, increased catch rate, and a reduction in fishing effort. The fishery and tourism benefits generated by the reserve have enhanced the living standard of the fishing community.