Effectiveness of small locally-managed marine protected areas for coral reef fisheries management in the Philippines
The Philippines has more than 1600 locally managed marine protected areas (MPAs), the most in the world. However, their effectiveness for coral reef fisheries management is often questionable because most of these MPAs are small and ineffectively managed. In this study, we assessed the fish biomass of commercially important coral reef fishes (e.g. surgeonfish (family Acanthuridae), parrotfish (subfamily Scarinae), snapper (family Lutjanidae), grouper (subfamily Epinephelinae), sweetlips (family Haemulidae), goatfish (Mullidae) and emperor (family Lethrinidae)) in 57 locally managed MPAs in the Philippines. We used the fish biomass level at the nationally managed, large (332.0 km2), remote, old and well enforced (i.e. strictly protected for >20 years) Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park (TRNMP) as a proxy for “unfished” ecosystems (Bo). We considered fish biomass levels between 25 and 50% of Bo as biomass within the maximum sustainable yield for multi-species coral reef fisheries (BMMSY) (McClanahan et al., 2014). Results showed that fish biomass levels in 7%, 25% and 68% of the surveyed MPAs were “above BMMSY”, “within BMMSY” and “below BMMSY”, respectively. None of the reefs outside MPAs was “above BMMSY”. About 86% were “below BMMSY” and the rest of the 14% of the sites outside MPAs were “within BMMSY” (14%). The mean (±S.E.) fish biomass levels on reefs inside and outside MPAs were only about 20.4 ± 2.2% and 10.9 ± 1.3%, respectively, of the TRNMP level. Neither size nor age of MPAs was significantly associated with fish biomass. Overall, our study showed that the current locally managed MPAs are not effective enough for coral reef fisheries management but, nonetheless, better than having no MPA at all.