The efficacy of large marine protected areas (MPA) for the conservation of mobile pelagic species is widely debated. Here, we quantified spatial and temporal trends in standardized catch per unit effort (CPUE) of two target pelagic species, yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) in the Indian Ocean to analyze the impact of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) MPA’s creation in 2010. We applied generalized additive mixed effects models to historical BIOT longline fishery logbooks and official catch and effort statistics from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to standardize CPUEs and to evaluate long-term trends and distribution patterns across the equatorial Indian Ocean. We find that trends in population indices from within BIOT prior to the MPA’s establishment mirror those of the wider Indian Ocean. We also suggest that there may be behavioral plasticity within the yellowfin tuna stock, with some individuals possibly undertaking alternative migration patterns or exhibiting residency behavior within BIOT. Yet, we find no direct evidence of any improvement in standardized CPUE indices of either species in the area surrounding the BIOT MPA, nearly 8 years after its establishment. The average size of yellowfin and bigeye tunas caught both increased after the MPA’s establishment. These patterns were also evident across the equatorial Indian Ocean, suggesting that any MPA effect is in combination with other regional drivers, such as behavioral changes in the fishing fleets in response to the threat of Somali Piracy. We therefore conclude that BIOT MPA may be providing local conservation value to tunas, but it is not significant enough to halt the overall regional decline in yellowfin tuna stocks. Thus, we emphasize that large MPAs should be considered in conjunction with other fishery management regulations and wider regional processes, rather than as a silver bullet, in order to provide the conservation and management benefits needed for mobile species like tunas.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
Lionfish (Pterois volitans) have rapidly invaded the tropical Atlantic and spread across the wider Caribbean in a relatively short period of time. Because of its high invasion capacity, we used it as a model to identify the connectivity among nine marine protected areas (MPAs) situated in four countries in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. This study provides evidence of local genetic differentiation of P. volitans in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. A total of 475 lionfish samples were characterized with 12 microsatellites, with 6–20 alleles per locus. Departures from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) were found in 10 of the 12 loci, all caused by heterozygous excess. Moderate genetic differentiation was observed between Chiriviche, Venezuela and Xcalak, México localities (FST = 0.012), and between the Los Roques and the Veracruz (FST = 0.074) sites. STRUCTURE analysis found that four genetic entities best fit our data. A unique genetic group in the Gulf of Mexico may imply that the lionfish invasion unfolded both in a counterclockwise manner in the Gulf of Mexico. In spite of the notable dispersion of P. volitans, our results show some genetic structure, as do other noninvasive Caribbean fish species, suggesting that the connectivity in some MPAs analyzed in the Caribbean is limited and caused by only a few source individuals with subsequent genetic drift leading to local genetic differentiation. This indicates that P. volitans dispersion could be caused by mesoscale phenomena, which produce stochastic connectivity pulses. Due to the isolation of some MPAs from others, these findings may hold a promise for local short‐term control of by means of intensive fishing, even in MPAs, and may have regional long‐term effects.
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a widely used marine conservation tool designed to preserve marine biodiversity and improve fisheries management. Although the environmental benefits of MPAs are well established, evaluating the social and economic impacts of MPAs is challenging. In this paper we quantitatively identify the economic and social differences between communities based on whether or not the community has a tabu area in their local fishing ground. This is an area permanently closed to fishing within a locally managed marine area (LMMA), a form of MPA in the Pacific region. To do this we analyse survey data at both the household and village level in Kadavu, an administrative province of Fiji. We find there are differences in economic activity and diet between the communities but little difference in overall income and wealth. Our study shows that villages with an active tabu area have more positive social outcomes in terms of perceptions of LMMAs. However, there are some notable negative social outcomes as well. In particular, we find that households not engaged in commercial fishing perceive conflict around the management of marine resources. We also find that households engaged in commercial fishing believe penalties for violating LMMA rules are high. Together, these results could potentially impede the adoption of LMMAs and tabu areas. Overall, our survey results do not indicate that tabu areas are detrimental or beneficial on the whole, either economically and socially.
Global threats to ocean biodiversity have generated a worldwide movement to take actions to improve conservation and management. Several international initiatives have recommended the adoption of marine protected areas (MPAs) in national and international waters. National governments and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources have successfully adopted multiple MPAs in the Southern Ocean despite the challenging nature of establishing MPAs in international waters. But are these MPAs representative of Southern Ocean biodiversity? Here we answer this question for both existing and proposed Antarctic MPAs, using benthic and pelagic regionalizations as a proxy for biodiversity. Currently about 11.98% of the Southern Ocean is protected in MPAs, with 4.61% being encompassed by no-take areas. While this is a relatively large proportion of protection when compared to other international waters, current Antarctic MPAs are not representative of the full range of benthic and pelagic ecoregions. Implementing additional protected areas, including those currently under negotiation, would encompass almost 22% of the Southern Ocean. It would also substantially improve representation with 17 benthic and pelagic ecoregions (out of 23 and 19, respectively) achieving at least 10% representation.
Ocean health is critical for human well-being but is threatened by multiple stressors. Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to protect 10% of their waters by 2020. The scientific evidence supporting the use of marine protected areas (MPAs) to conserve biodiversity stems primarily from knowledge on fully protected areas, but most of what is being established is partially protected. Here, we assess the protection levels of the 1,062 Mediterranean MPAs. While 6.01% of the Mediterranean is covered by protection, 95% of this area shows no difference between the regulations imposed inside the MPAs compared with those outside. Full and high levels of protection, the most effective for biodiversity conservation, represent only 0.23% of the basin and are unevenly distributed across political boundaries and eco-regions. Our current efforts are insufficient at managing human uses of nature at sea, and protection levels should be increased to deliver tangible benefits for biodiversity conservation.
Marine protected areas can serve to regulate harvesting and conserve biodiversity. Within large multi‐use MPAs, it is often unclear to what degree critical sites of biodiversity are afforded protection against commercial activities. Addressing this issue is a prerequisite if we are to appropriately assess sites against conservation targets. We evaluated whether the management regime of a large MPA conserved sites (Key Biodiversity Areas, KBAs) supporting the global persistence of top marine predators.
Southwest Atlantic Ocean.
We collated population and tracking data (1,418 tracks) from 14 marine predator species (Procellariiformes, Sphenisciformes, Pinnipedia) that breed at South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and identified hotspots for their conservation under the recently developed KBA framework. We then evaluated the spatiotemporal overlap of these sites and the different management regimes of krill, demersal longline and pelagic trawl fisheries operating within a large MPA, which was created with the intention to protect marine predator species.
We identified 12 new global marine KBAs that are important for this community of top predators, both within and beyond the focal MPA. Only three species consistently used marine areas at a time when a potentially higher‐risk fishery was allowed to operate in that area, while other interactions between fisheries and our target species were mostly precluded by MPA management plans.
We show that current fishery management measures within the MPA contribute to protecting top predators considered in this study and that resource harvesting within the MPA does not pose a major threat—under current climate conditions. Unregulated fisheries beyond the MPA, however, pose a likely threat to identified KBAs. Our approach demonstrates the utility of the KBA guidelines and multispecies tracking data to assess the contributing role of well‐designed MPAs in achieving local and internationally agreed conservation targets.
Invasive species pose a significant threat to a primary objective of marine conservation, protecting native biodiversity. To-date, research quantifying invasion risk to marine protected areas (MPAs) is limited despite potential negative consequences. As a first step towards identifying invasion risk to MPAs via vessel ballast or biofouling, we evaluated vessel traffic patterns by applying graph-theoretic concepts for 1346 vessels that connected invaded areas (‘invasion nodes’) along the Northeast Pacific coast to MPAs within Canadian waters in 2016. We found that 29% of MPAs overlapped with invasion nodes and 70% were connected to invasion nodes via vessel traffic. Recreational vessels were most prevalent within invasion and MPA nodes, made the most connections between invasion nodes and MPAs, and spent the most time within nodes. Vessel connections increased in summer and with spatial extent and dock area at invasion and MPA nodes, as well as for MPAs with minimal regulatory protection. Results from this work highlight risk posed by vessels as a vector for nonindigenous species spread and present an opportunity to develop improved management measures to help protect MPAs. Such an approach can be applied to vector interactions with protected areas across biomes for targeted invasion management.
Two of the largest protected areas on earth are U.S. National Monuments in the Pacific Ocean. Numerous claims have been made about the impacts of these protected areas on the fishing industry, but there has been no ex post empirical evaluation of their effects. We use administrative data documenting individual fishing events to evaluate the economic impact of the expansion of these two monuments on the Hawaii longline fishing fleet. Surprisingly, catch and catch-per-unit-effort are higher since the expansions began. To disentangle the causal effect of the expansions from confounding factors, we use unaffected control fisheries to perform a difference-in-differences analysis. We find that the monument expansions had little, if any, negative impacts on the fishing industry, corroborating ecological models that have predicted minimal impacts from closing large parts of the Pacific Ocean to fishing.
Severe coral bleaching events in the Gulf of Thailand and along the Andaman Sea coast of Thailand caused widespread coral mortality in 1998 and 2010. The consequent decrease in coral populations impacted the structure, health, and services of Thai coral reefs. However, most colonies in the offshore reef of Losin were still alive after the coral bleaching events. Therefore, this study was conducted by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources in order to help to establish a proposal for making it a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Surveys on coral diversity were conducted to produce a checklist of reef-building corals. Seventy-six coral species were found, with the most dominant species being Porites lutea and Acropora communities, such as A. intermedia, A. grandis, A. muricata, A. cytherea, and A. valenciennesi. This area is expected to be designated as a restricted MPA area, under the “Act on the Promotion of Marine and Coastal Resources Management B.E. 2558 (2015).” The high diversity of hard corals discovered in this study assists in promoting an Announcement of the Losin Marine and Coastal Resources Protected Areas following Ministerial Regulation.
Strategies aimed to conserve and manage rare species are often hindered by the lack of data needed for their effective design. Incomplete and inaccurate data on habitat associations and current species distributions pose a barrier to effective conservation and management for several species of endemic sea snakes in Western Australia that are thought to be in decline. Here we used a correlative modelling approach to understand habitat associations and identify suitable habitats for five of these species (Aipysurus apraefrontalis, A. foliosquama, A. fuscus, A. l. pooleorum and A. tenuis). We modelled species-specific habitat suitability across 804,244 km2 of coastal waters along the North-west Shelf of Western Australia, to prioritise future survey regions to locate unknown populations of these rare species. Model projections were also used to quantify the effectiveness of current spatial management strategies (Marine Protected Areas) in conserving important habitats for these species. Species-specific models matched well with the records on which they were trained, and identified additional regions of suitability without records. Subsequent field validation of the model projections uncovered a previously unknown locality for A. fuscus within the mid-shelf shoal region, outside its currently recognised global range. Defining accurate geographic distributions for rare species is a vital first step in defining more robust extent of species occurrence and range overlap with threatening processes.