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Thinking big-how can we scale marine reserves to protect large, roving reef predators?

Presentation at the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting
September 06, 2007

Abstract PDF

The theme of the meeting is "Thinking Downstream and Downcurrent: Addressing Uncertainty and Unintended Consequences in Fish and Fisheries." At the interface between the Sacramento-San Joaquin River drainage and the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco provides an outstanding venue to think about managing whole ecosystems.

Thinking big-how can we scale marine reserves to protect large, roving reef predators?

Ellen K. Pikitch , Elizabeth A. Babcock , Demian Chapman

Given the widespread severe decline of top marine predators and some evidence of cascading ecological effects, the restoration and preservation of the trophic structure of marine ecosystems has become one of the most pressing objectives of Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management (EBFM). No-take marine protected areas (MPAs) are an increasingly advocated tool for EBFM, yet most MPAs are relatively small in size and therefore may not provide much protection for large, roving upper trophic level species like sharks and pelagic fish. Here, we present a case study of how a broader strategy of ocean zoning can build upon a comparatively small no-take MPA to achieve the spatial scale necessary to meaningfully protect some ecologically important Caribbean reef apex predators (sharks). We tracked over fifty sharks during a three year period off Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve (Belize) and revealed that despite occasional long distance, pelagic movements and frequent breaches of the small no-take zone these predators spent a considerable amount of time within a much larger reserve zone where shark fishing is severely restricted. We discuss the role of ocean zoning as a component of EBFM, in the context of using it to help rebuild oceanic trophic pyramids by conserving sharks other large ocean predators.

Authors highlighted in blue are staff of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science.


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