Derelict fishing line provides a useful proxy for estimating levels of non-compliance with no-take marine reserves.
ABSTRACT: No-take marine reserves (NTMRs) are increasingly being established to conserve or restore biodiversity and to enhance the sustainability of fisheries. Although effectively designed and protected NTMR networks can yield conservation and fishery benefits, reserve effects often fail to manifest in systems where there are high levels of non-compliance by fishers (poaching). Obtaining reliable estimates of NTMR non-compliance can be expensive and logistically challenging, particularly in areas with limited or non-existent resources for conducting surveillance and enforcement. Here we assess the utility of density estimates and re-accumulation rates of derelict (lost and abandoned) fishing line as a proxy for fishing effort and NTMR non-compliance on fringing coral reefs in three island groups of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP), Australia. Densities of derelict fishing line were consistently lower on reefs within old (>20 year) NTMRs than on non-NTMR reefs (significantly in the Palm and Whitsunday Islands), whereas line densities did not differ significantly between reefs in new NTMRs (5 years of protection) and non-NTMR reefs. A manipulative experiment in which derelict fishing lines were removed from a subset of the monitoring sites demonstrated that lines re-accumulated on NTMR reefs at approximately one third (32.4%) of the rate observed on non-NTMR reefs over a thirty-two month period. Although these inshore NTMRs have long been considered some of the best protected within the GBRMP, evidence presented here suggests that the level of non-compliance with NTMR regulations is higher than previously assumed.
Project description:Marine protected areas can prevent over-exploitation, but their effect on marine diseases is less clear. We examined how marine reserves can reduce diseases affecting reef-building corals following acute and chronic disturbances. One year after a severe tropical cyclone, corals inside reserves had sevenfold lower levels of disease than those in non-reserves. Similarly, disease prevalence was threefold lower on reserve reefs following chronic exposure to terrestrial run-off from a degraded river catchment, when exposure duration was below the long-term site average. Examination of 35 predictor variables indicated that lower levels of derelict fishing line and injured corals inside reserves were correlated with lower levels of coral disease in both case studies, signifying that successful disease mitigation occurs when activities that damage reefs are restricted. Conversely, reserves were ineffective in moderating disease when sites were exposed to higher than average levels of run-off, demonstrating that reductions in water quality undermine resilience afforded by reserve protection. In addition to implementing protected areas, we highlight that disease management efforts should also target improving water quality and limiting anthropogenic activities that cause injury.
Project description:The effectiveness of marine protected areas depends largely on whether people comply with the rules. We quantified temporal changes in benthic composition, reef fish biomass, and fishing effort among marine park zones (including no-take areas) to assess levels of compliance following the 2005 rezoning of the government-controlled Karimunjawa National Park (KNP), Indonesia. Four years after the rezoning awareness of fishing regulations was high amongst local fishers, ranging from 79.5±7.9 (SE) % for spatial restrictions to 97.7±1.2% for bans on the use of poisons. Despite this high awareness and strong compliance with gear restrictions, compliance with spatial restrictions was weak. In the four years following the rezoning reef fish biomass declined across all zones within KNP, with >50% reduction within the no-take Core and Protection Zones. These declines were primarily driven by decreases in the biomass of groups targeted by local fishers; planktivores, herbivores, piscivores, and invertivores. These declines in fish biomass were not driven by changes in habitat quality; coral cover increased in all zones, possibly as a result of a shift in fishing gears from those which can damage reefs (i.e., nets) to those which cause little direct damage (i.e., handlines and spears). Direct observations of fishing activities in 2009 revealed there was limited variation in fishing effort between zones in which fishing was allowed or prohibited. The apparent willingness of the KNP communities to comply with gear restrictions, but not spatial restrictions is difficult to explain and highlights the complexities of the social and economic dynamics that influence the ecological success of marine protected areas. Clearly the increased and high awareness of fishery restrictions following the rezoning is a positive step. The challenge now is to understand and foster the conditions that may facilitate compliance with spatial restrictions within KNP and marine parks worldwide.
Project description:The coral reefs at the northernmost tip of Sabah, Borneo will be established under a marine protected area: the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) by the end of 2015. This area is a passage where the Sulu Sea meets the South China Sea and it is situated at the border of the area of maximum marine biodiversity, the Coral Triangle. The TMP includes fringing and patch reefs established on a relatively shallow sea floor. Surveys were carried out to examine features of the coral reefs in terms of scleractinian species richness, and benthic reef assemblages following the Reef Check substrate categories, with emphasis on hard coral cover. Variation in scleractinian diversity was based on the species composition of coral families Fungiidae (n = 39), Agariciidae (n = 30) and Euphylliidae (n = 15). The number of coral species was highest at reefs with a larger depth gradient i.e. at the periphery of the study area and in the deep South Banggi Channel. Average live hard coral cover across the sites was 49%. Only 7% of the examined reefs had > 75% hard coral cover, while the majority of the reef sites were rated fair (51%) and good (38%). Sites with low coral cover and high rubble fragments are evidence of blast fishing, although the observed damage appeared old. Depth was a dominant factor in influencing the coral species composition and benthic reef communities in the TMP. Besides filling in the information gaps regarding species richness and benthic cover for reef areas that were previously without any data, the results of this study together with information that is already available on the coral reefs of TMP will be used to make informed decisions on zoning plans for conservation priorities in the proposed park.
Project description:Anthropogenic litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote points in the oceans. On the seafloor, marine litter, particularly plastic, can accumulate in high densities with deleterious consequences for its inhabitants. Yet, because of the high cost involved with sampling the seafloor, no large-scale assessment of distribution patterns was available to date. Here, we present data on litter distribution and density collected during 588 video and trawl surveys across 32 sites in European waters. We found litter to be present in the deepest areas and at locations as remote from land as the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The highest litter density occurs in submarine canyons, whilst the lowest density can be found on continental shelves and on ocean ridges. Plastic was the most prevalent litter item found on the seafloor. Litter from fishing activities (derelict fishing lines and nets) was particularly common on seamounts, banks, mounds and ocean ridges. Our results highlight the extent of the problem and the need for action to prevent increasing accumulation of litter in marine environments.
Project description:Every year, millions of pots and traps are lost in crustacean fisheries around the world. Derelict fishing gear has been found to produce several harmful environmental and ecological effects, however socioeconomic consequences have been investigated less frequently. We analyze the economic effects of a substantial derelict pot removal program in the largest estuary of the United States, the Chesapeake Bay. By combining spatially resolved data on derelict pot removals with commercial blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) harvests and effort, we show that removing 34,408 derelict pots led to significant gains in gear efficiency and an additional 13,504 MT in harvest valued at US $21.3 million--a 27% increase above that which would have occurred without removals. Model results are extended to a global analysis where it is seen that US $831 million in landings could be recovered annually by removing less than 10% of the derelict pots and traps from major crustacean fisheries. An unfortunate common pool externality, the degradation of marine environments is detrimental not only to marine organisms and biota, but also to those individuals and communities whose livelihoods and culture depend on profitable and sustainable marine resource use.
Project description:Marine reserves (MRs) have emerged as a preferred method to protect coral reefs from overfishing and human disturbance. However, due to ineffective enforcement by governments, many MRs have been reduced to mere "paper parks" which fail to achieve conservation goals. This is especially true in countries such as China where compliance is low and resources dedicated to enforcement may be scarce. Privately managed marine reserves (PMMRs) may be effective in areas where government enforcement is lacking. To determine if PMMRs are a viable alternative strategy to protect coral reefs, we surveyed and compared fish assemblages and coral coverage in national MRs in Sanya, China to areas of reef privately leased to and managed by dive operators and hospitality industries. We found higher fish abundances and fish sizes in PMMR sites than in MR sites. However, while PMMRs are protected from fishing, other human impacts such as marine debris and illegal coral collection were evident in most tourist sites. Despite protection, long-term monitoring data of PMMRs revealed that in recent years, fish abundances have slightly recovered but species richness has not, indicating the need for a more comprehensive coral reef management plan. We strongly recommend coupling PMMRs with expertise supported regulations as an alternative coral reef management strategy in China.
Project description:There are numerous examples of no-take marine reserves effectively conserving fish stocks within their boundaries. However, no-take reserves can be rendered ineffective and turned into 'paper parks' through poor compliance and weak enforcement of reserve regulations. Long-term monitoring is thus essential to assess the effectiveness of marine reserves in meeting conservation and management objectives. This study documents the present state of the 15-year old no-take zone (NTZ) of South El Ghargana within the Nabq Managed Resource Protected Area, South Sinai, Egyptian Red Sea. Previous studies credited willing compliance by the local fishing community for the increased abundances of targeted fish within the designated NTZ boundaries compared to adjacent fished or take-zones. We compared benthic habitat and fish abundance within the NTZ and the adjacent take sites open to fishing, but found no significant effect of the reserve. Instead, the strongest evidence was for a simple negative relationship between fishing pressure and distance from the closest fishing village. The abundance of targeted piscivorous fish increased significantly with increasing distance from the village, while herbivorous fish showed the opposite trend. This gradient was supported by a corresponding negative correlation between the amount of discarded fishing gear observed on the reef and increasing distance from the village. Discarded fishing gear within the NTZ suggested decreased compliance with the no-take regulations. Our findings indicate that due to non-compliance the no-take reserve is no longer functioning effectively, despite its apparent initial successes and instead a gradient of fishing pressure exists with distance from the nearest fishing community.
Project description:Consumers and prey diversity, their interactions, and subsequent effects on ecosystem function are important for ecological processes but not well understood in high diversity ecosystems such as coral reefs. Consequently, we tested the potential for diversity-effects with a series of surveys and experiments evaluating the influence of browsing herbivores on macroalgae in Kenya's fringing reef ecosystem. We surveyed sites and undertook experiments in reefs subject to three levels of human fishing influence: open access fished reefs, small and recently established community-managed marine reserves, and larger, older government-managed marine reserves. Older marine reserves had a greater overall diversity of herbivores and browsers but this was not clearly associated with reduced macroalgal diversity or abundance. Experiments studying succession on hard substrata also found no effects of consumer diversity. Instead, overall browser abundance of either sea urchins or fishes was correlated with declines in macroalgal cover. An exception was that the absence of a key fish browser genus, Naso, which was correlated with the persistence of Sargassum in a marine reserve. Algal selectivity assays showed that macroalgae were consumed at variable rates, a product of strong species-specific feeding and low overlap in the selectivity of browsing fishes. We conclude that the effects of browser and herbivore diversity are less than the influences of key species, whose impacts emerge in different contexts that are influenced by fisheries management. Consequently, identifying key herbivore species and managing to protect them may assist protecting reef functions.
Project description:Spatial patterns of coral reef benthic communities vary across a range of broad-scale biogeographical levels to fine-scale local habitat conditions. This study described spatial patterns of coral reef benthic communities spanning across the 536-km coast of Kenya. Thirty-eight reef sites representing different geographical zones within an array of habitats and management levels were assessed by benthic cover, coral genera and coral colony size classes. Three geographical zones were identified along the latitudinal gradient based on their benthic community composition. Hard coral dominated the three zones with highest cover in the south and Porites being the most abundant genus. Almost all 15 benthic variables differed significantly between geographical zones. The interaction of habitat factors and management levels created a localised pattern within each zone. Four habitats were identified based on their similarity in benthic community composition; 1. Deep-Exposed Patch reef in Reserve areas (DEPR), 2. Deep-Exposed Fringing reefs in Unprotected areas (DEFU), 3. Shallow Fringing and Lagoon reefs in Protected and Reserve areas (SFLPR) and 4. Shallow Patch and Channel reefs (SPC). DEPR was found in the north zone only and its benthic community was predominantly crustose coralline algae. DEFU was found in central and south zones mainly dominated by soft corals, Acropora, Montipora, juvenile corals and small colonies of adult corals. SFLPR was dominated by macroalgae and turf algae and was found in north and central zones. SPC was found across all geographical zones with a benthic community dominated by hard corals of mostly large colonies of Porites and Echinopora. The north zone exhibits habitat types that support resistance properties, the south supports recovery processes and central zone acts as an ecological corridor between zones. Identifying habitats with different roles in reef resilience is useful information for marine spatial planning and supports the process of designing effective marine protected areas.
Project description:The health of the coral reefs of the Abrolhos Bank (Southwestern Atlantic) was characterized with a holistic approach using measurements of four ecosystem components: (i) inorganic and organic nutrient concentrations,  fish biomass,  macroalgal and coral cover and (iv) microbial community composition and abundance. The possible benefits of protection from fishing were particularly evaluated by comparing sites with varying levels of protection. Two reefs within the well-enforced no-take area of the National Marine Park of Abrolhos (Parcel dos Abrolhos and California) were compared with two unprotected coastal reefs (Sebastião Gomes and Pedra de Leste) and one legally protected but poorly enforced coastal reef (the "paper park" of Timbebas Reef). The fish biomass was lower and the fleshy macroalgal cover was higher in the unprotected reefs compared with the protected areas. The unprotected and protected reefs had similar seawater chemistry. Lower vibrio CFU counts were observed in the fully protected area of California Reef. Metagenome analysis showed that the unprotected reefs had a higher abundance of archaeal and viral sequences and more bacterial pathogens, while the protected reefs had a higher abundance of genes related to photosynthesis. Similar to other reef systems in the world, there was evidence that reductions in the biomass of herbivorous fishes and the consequent increase in macroalgal cover in the Abrolhos Bank may be affecting microbial diversity and abundance. Through the integration of different types of ecological data, the present study showed that protection from fishing may lead to greater reef health. The data presented herein suggest that protected coral reefs have higher microbial diversity, with the most degraded reef (Sebastião Gomes) showing a marked reduction in microbial species richness. It is concluded that ecological conditions in unprotected reefs may promote the growth and rapid evolution of opportunistic microbial pathogens.