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Studies show marine reserves can be an effective tool for managing fisheries
Date:11/9/2009

, as called for in the 1999 Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), has been controversial. A network of protected areas was established on the Central Coast in 2006, and a plan for the North-Central Coast was adopted in August 2009. In Southern California, a task force will soon make recommendations to the state Fish and Game Commission, while on the North Coast the planning process is just getting started.

Raimondi and Mark Carr, also a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC, have been actively involved in this initiative. In addition to serving on science advisory teams, they are engaged in an intensive monitoring program to track the effects of the reserves that have already been established.

"We are monitoring those areas at unprecedented levels. It's a comprehensive effort to characterize the populations and the ecosystems so that we can compare the responses to different types of protection," Carr said. "Monitoring studies around the globe systematically show positive responses within protected areas. We want to really identify what aspects of reserve design are important in influencing those benefits."

According to Carr, it will take a few more years of monitoring to see the effects of the Central Coast reserves. In the Channel Islands, however, where reserves were established in 2003 (separately from the MLPA process), surveys have yielded the kinds of results scientists expect to see in protected areas. For example, fish species targeted by fishermen tend to be bigger and more plentiful within the reserves.

This effect is important, because studies have shown that larger, older females are much more important than younger fish in maintaining healthy populations of species such as West Coast rockfish.

"When you have a protected population, you not only get spillover effects when fish swim out of the reserve and get caught, you also have major effects on larval production," Carr said. "The bigger, olde
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Contact: Tim Stephens
stephens@ucsc.edu
831-459-2495
University of California - Santa Cruz
Source:Eurekalert

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