Commercial fishermen may be able to catch more of the profitable fish they want with marine reserves than without them, according to a study in the journal PNAS led by the University of California, Davis. Using marine reserves as a management tool could also help the recently rebounded West Coast groundfish fishery sustain itself, the study notes.
Marine reserves are a subset of Marine Protected Areas. Some MPAs allow fishing, but marine reserves are areas of the ocean closed to fishing and other extractive activities.
While it may sound counterintuitive, the study shows that marine reserves can help avoid reductions of allowable catch. The end result is fishermen catch more of the fish they target while protecting the weaker fish that can be caught inadvertently by indiscriminate fishing gear. These untargeted fish are called bycatch, which is one of the most crippling challenges facing global fisheries.
“With marine reserves, our models show it’s a win-win situation,” said lead author Alan Hastings, a theoretical ecologist and professor in the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy. “You can have the harvest you would like from your target species while at the same time benefiting the weak stocks.”
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