Evaluating the effectiveness of coastal no-take zones of the Galapagos Marine Reserve for the red spiny lobster, Panulirus penicillatus
Monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of no-take zones (NTZs) is critical, not just for the effective management of marine resources, but also for informing and gaining support from community stakeholders. The Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) established a network of coastal NTZs in 2001, yet, to date no study has investigated their effectiveness in protecting and enabling key species to recover. Using data from the Galapagos National Park Directorate annual Lobster Population Monitoring Program from 2012 to 2014, this study evaluated the recovery of the commercially valuable red spiny lobster (Panulirus penicillatus) inside NTZs in the GMR. It was hypothesized that NTZs would present higher lobster abundances or sizes when compared with adjacent fished zones. However, the study found no significant differences in these comparisons. Overall the findings indicate that > 11 years of protection has had no appreciable effect on lobster abundances or sizes inside the NTZs. This paper explores possible reasons for the lack of response in NTZs, and concluded that non-compliance and shortcomings within the enforcement framework of the GMR are the key factors limiting the functionality of these NTZs. Additionally, it also evaluates the limitations of the current monitoring program and highlights the need for a more comprehensive and long-term program to be implemented. As the new zoning scheme for NTZs in the GMR that began in 2016 is still to be determined, this information should be considered by decision makers to improve the effectiveness of NTZs and sustainable management of the GRM's coastal resources.