Marine protected areas (MPAs) offer various states of protection and are often viewed as a conflict between conservation and fishing. This study synthesized research that compared partially protected areas (PPAs), no-take reserves (NTRs) and open access areas (Open), to assess the potential benefits of different levels of protections of fish populations. Response to protection was examined in relation to MPA parameters and the exploitation status of fish. 40 relevant studies were included in the meta-analysis. The results suggested that PPAs significantly enhance density and biomass of fish relative to Open areas. NTRs yielded significantly higher biomass of fish within their boundaries relative to PPAs. The authors conclude that MPAs with partial protection confer advantages, such as enhanced density and biomass of fish, compared to areas with no restrictions. The strongest responses occurred for areas with total exclusion. MPAs with a combination of protection levels are a valuable spatial management tool especially in regions where stopping all activities is not politically and socio-economically viable.

Author: Sciberras, M., S.R. Jenkins, R. Mant, M.J. Kaiser, S.J. Hawkins, and A.S. Pullin
Year: 2015
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Fish and Fisheries 16: 58-77. doi: 10.1111/faf.12044

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