The UK’s first MPA showed large increases in lobster populations 10 years after it was protected from fishing but now disease may threaten what was once a marine conservation success story.
Lundy Island was the UKs first marine protected area (MPA) when it became a Marine Nature Reserve in 1986. In 2003 it established the UKs first no-take zone (NTZ), where all fishing (including potting) and removal of wildlife is forbidden.
A subsequent 5-year survey showed dramatic increase in the abundance and size of lobsters within the NTZ compared to fished areas.
A recent study of Lundy Island by researchers from Swansea University has now shown that although lobsters were more abundant, and larger in the NTZ when compared to a fished area, they were also more likely to be injured, which was highly correlated with disease.
The managerial decision to monitor potential effects of the NTZ at Lundy was made after it was established; therefore ‘post-impact’ survey designs were the only option. This study not only highlights the need for baseline monitoring, but that in un-fished areas; populations may eventually reach a threshold at which conditions become unhealthy. In short, there may be both positive and, rarely broadcast, negative effects of MPAs.