No-Take Zones boost fish populations, research suggests

Coral Ocean, biodiversity targets, Reef, No-Take Zone, NTZ, MPA

A long-term study hailed as a “breakthrough” by scientists suggests tightening fishing restrictions, like implementing no-take zones, in one area can rapidly boost fish populations in surrounding areas and simultaneously protect threatened ecosystems.

The “powerful” findings provide clear scientific backing for global calls to conserve 30 per cent of the world’s oceans, the research team said.

The study, carried out in Kenya, recorded fish catches over 24 years across 12 fish landing sites in two different counties.

While one county enforced a “no-take” marine protected area (MPA) which covered 30 per cent of the fishery, the other county focused on gear restrictions and the use of small-mesh nets.

After 24 years the differences between the two fisheries “were stark”, the researchers said.

In the area where the no-take MPA was enforced, fish populations increased by 42 per cent, and fishers’ per-person daily catches rose 25 times faster than in the county where only the gear restrictions were used.

This shows that no-take MPAs were “far more effective at sustaining stocks of fish than restricting destructive gear,” the researchers said.

No-Take Zones

The study’s lead author Dr Tim McClanahan, a senior coral reef scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: “The no-take area in Mombasa occupied 30 per cent of the studied fishing grounds. Fortuitously, this is the target for protection being proposed for the oceans, which is rarely tested and based on the results of simulation models.

“The empirical support for the models and the conservation proposal is reassuring along with the unexpected results of increased production of fish populations that compensated for the lost fishing area.”

He added: “This adds to the evidence that no-take protected areas of sufficient coverage may compensate for the lost fishing grounds, particularly when fisheries are not sustainably fished.”

Reference: Tim R. McClanahan. Marine reserve more sustainable than gear restriction in maintaining long-term coral reef fisheries yields. Marine Policy, 2021; 128: 104478 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2021.104478

Read the full article ‘Breakthrough’ research suggests protecting a third of a fishery with ‘no-take’ rule leads to huge boost in surrounding fish populations at The Independent.

Find out more about Scotland’s only No-Take Zone – Lamlash Bay NTZ.

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