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Evidence for greater reproductive output per unit area in areas protected from fishing

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Marine protected areas are advocated as an essential management tool to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources by providing insurance against over-exploitation and through the provision of refuge for a large biomass of sexually mature adults. Using a unique fishing gear-restriction, voluntary management system as a large-scale experiment, we found that adult scallops (Pecten maximus) within areas protected from towed bottom-fishing gear had heavier adductor muscle tissue and gonads that were 19%–24% heavier than those of scallops in fished areas, while other body and age characteristics were similar in both areas. The scallops within the protected area also occurred at a much higher abundance than adjacent, chronically fished (× 12.83) and wider commercially exploited (× 2.18) areas. These results provide evidence that the use of towed bottom-fishing gear can further exacerbate the effects of overfishing through the suppression of the reproductive potential of individuals of similar body size. These findings underline the utility of using closed areas as tools for fisheries conservation of sedentary species of commercial importance.

On recommande les zones de protection marine comme outils essentiels de gestion afin d’assurer l’utilisation durable des ressources marines, car elles procurent une assurance contre la surpêche et des refuges pour une importante biomasse d’adultes arrivés à la maturité sexuelle. En utilisant un système de gestion inédit de restriction volontaire des engins de pêche comme expérience à grande échelle, nous observons que, dans les zones protégées où les engins de pêche tirés sur le fond ne sont pas utilisés, les pétoncles adultes (Pecten maximus) ont le tissu du muscle adducteur et les gonades de 19 % à 24 % plus lourds que les pétoncles des zones exploitées; les autres caractéristiques du corps et de l’âge sont, par ailleurs, semblables dans les deux zones. Les pétoncles de la zone protégée ont aussi une densité beaucoup plus grande que celles de la zone adjacente soumise chroniquement à la pêche (× 12,83) et des zones plus éloignées exploitées commercialement (× 2,18). Ces résultats montrent que l’utilisation d’engins de pêche traînés sur le fond peut amplifier les effets de la surpêche en réduisant le potentiel reproductif des individus de taille correspondante. Ces observations soulignent l’intérêt d’utiliser les zones fermées comme outils de conservation halieutique chez les espèces sédentaires d’importance commerciale.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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