Rethinking spatial costs and benefits of fisheries in marine conservation
Fishing catch is often used as a cost in marine conservation planning to avoid areas of high fishing activity when identifying potential marine reserve locations. However, the theory of marine reserves indicates that reserves are more likely to benefit fisheries in areas of heavy fishing activity that would otherwise be overfished. Whether or not fishing catch is calculated as a cost depends on the balance of conservation and fisheries goals for a reserve, and thus is critical for policymakers to consider when designing marine reserve networks. This research shows the utility of running an inverted cost model of fishery catches during marine reserve spatial prioritization as a first step in a marine planning process oriented towards stabilizing local fisheries. This technique serves as a heuristic tool that may help conservation planners explore regions that would otherwise be overlooked if fisheries data were absent or integrated purely as a cost in the planning process. Drawing on data from Madagascar to illustrate our approach, this research demonstrates that the regions most frequently selected using the inverted cost model not only meet conservation targets, but are also those most accessible to community-based resource managers, the dominant management paradigm in Madagascar as well as in many developing countries.