Trade-offs in marine protection: multispecies interactions within a community-led temperate marine reserve
This study investigated the effects of a community-led temperate marine reserve in Lamlash Bay, Firth of Clyde, Scotland, on commercially important populations of European lobster (Homarus gammarus), brown crab (Cancer pagurus), and velvet swimming crabs (Necora puber). Potting surveys conducted over 4 years revealed significantly higher catch per unit effort (cpue 109% greater), weight per unit effort (wpue 189% greater), and carapace length (10–15 mm greater) in lobsters within the reserve compared with control sites. However, likely due to low levels of recruitment and increased fishing effort outside the reserve, lobster catches decreased in all areas during the final 2 years. Nevertheless, catch rates remained higher within the reserve across all years, suggesting the reserve buffered these wider declines. Additionally, lobster cpue and wpue declined with increasing distance from the boundaries of the marine reserve, a trend which tag–recapture data suggested were due to spillover. Catches of berried lobster were also twice as high within the reserve than outside, and the mean potential reproductive output per female was 22.1% greater. It was originally thought that higher densities of lobster within the reserve might lead to greater levels of aggression and physical damage. However, damage levels were solely related to body size, as large lobsters >110 mm had sustained over 218% more damage than smaller individuals. Interestingly, catches of adult lobsters were inversely correlated with those of juvenile lobsters, brown crabs, and velvet crabs, which may be evidence of competitive displacement and/or predation. Our findings provide evidence that temperate marine reserves can deliver fisheries and conservation benefits, and highlight the importance of investigating multispecies interactions, as the recovery of some species can have knock-on effects on others.