Marine Managed Areas and Associated Fisheries in the US Caribbean
The marine managed areas (MMAs) of the U.S. Caribbean are summarized and specific data-rich cases are examined to determine their impact upon fisheries management in the region. In this region, the productivity and connectivity of benthic habitats such as mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs is essential for many species targeted by fisheries. A minority of the 39 MMAs covering over 4000 km2 serve any detectable management or conservation function due to deficiencies in the design, objectives, compliance or enforcement. Fifty percent of the area within MMA boundaries had no-take regulations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, while Puerto Rico only had 3%. Six case studies are compared and contrasted to better understand the potential of these MMAs for fisheries management. Signs of success were associated with including sufficient areas of essential fish habitat (nursery, spawning and migration corridors), year-round no-take regulations, enforcement and isolation. These criteria have been identified as important in the conservation of marine resources, but little has been done to modify the way MMAs are designated and implemented in the region. Site-specific monitoring to measure the effects of these MMAs is needed to demonstrate the benefits to fisheries and gain local support for a greater use as a fisheries management tool.