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Free Content A comparison of the short-term impact of no-take marine reserves and minimum size limits

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Establishing no-take marine reserves (NTRs) displaces fishing effort to surrounding areas, creating concerns about short-term impacts on resources and fishers before long-term benefits can accrue. Models were developed to compare the effects of short-term displacement caused by of NTRs to effects of minimum size limits (MSLs), one of the most widely applied management measures in the southeastern U.S. Projected impacts on resource protection and fishers were assessed on the basis of the portion of a population either protected or legally available to fishing. In all cases, existing MSLs had greater impact on total numbers of fish landed (reduced by 38 to 70%) than on the weight of total landings (reduced by 14 to 26%). NTRs protected sedentary species in approximate proportion to the total habitat closed to fishing but provided less protection as species mobility increased. These differences in protection due to mobility were greater for reserves covering small percentages of total habitat. Predicted short-term displacement impacts on fishers were low for reserves covering small percentages of the total habitat, but they increased exponentially as the percentage of total habitat closed increased. Displacement impacts were predicted to be highest for fishers pursuing sedentary species and decreased for more mobile species. Detrimental impacts to surrounding habitat from displacement depended on initial fishery conditions, gear type, and the total proportion of habitat closed. Although more fishers are affected by the no-take rule, concerns about short-term displacement impacts appear to be exaggerated. Some opposition to establishing NTRs may result in part because the no-take provision is more difficult to circumvent than other regulations. When combined with traditional management tools, no-take reserves offer increased flexibility for supporting fisheries and protecting resources.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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