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Posted by Chris on February 08, 2004 at 13:50:10:

Two publications of the past year are worth examining for those in and outside of the fishing industry interested in marine protected areas (MPAs) and marine reserves, in particular where fishing is prohibited. The journal Ecological Applications, published by the Ecological Society of America produced a full supplement, "The Science of Marine Reserves," to its February 2003 issue (Vol. 13, No.1) containing papers by some of the leading advocates of marine reserves. In the lead paper in the issue, 'Plugging a Hole in the Ocean; The Emerging Science of Marine Reserves," Drs. Jane Lubchenko, Stephen Palumbi, Steven Gaines and Sandy Andelman wrote (p.S5) that their analyses "of the best available evidence leads us to conclude that:
     * Reserves conserve both fisheries and biodiversity.
     * Reserves must encompass the diversity of marine habitats in order to meet goals for fisheries and biodiversity conservation.
     * Reserves are the best way to protect resident species and provide heritage protection to important habitats.
     * Reserves must be established and operated in the context of other management tools.
     * Reserves need a dedicated program to monitor and evaluate their impacts both within and outside their boundaries.
     * Reserves provide a critical benchmark for the evaluation of threats to ocean communities.
     * Networks of reserves will be necessary for long-term fishery and conservation benefits.
     * Existing scientific information justifies the immediate application of fully protected marine reserves as a central management tool."

The views of the authors in the Ecological Applications supplement differ markedly with those that appeared in the December 2003 issue of Fisheries, published by the American Fisheries Society (AFS). In his paper, "A Perspective on Marine Reserves as a Fishery Management Tool" (pp.10-21), Dr. Robert Shipp wrote, "as a tool for fisheries management, where optimal and/or maximum sustainable yield is the objective, I submit that reserves are generally not as effective a traditional management measures and are not appropriate for the vast majority of marine species." In his Fisheries article, Shipp reviewed most of the major fisheries around the U.S. and possible benefits of marine reserves in their management.

"Far better would be to improve traditional methods to restore the overfished stocks, as has been done for many species," wrote Shipp. This becomes more and more successful as we adopt more precautionary harvest levels, improve our methods of stock assessment, stock/recruit relationships, and life history information." Shipp concluded the article saying, "Current plans or suggestions regarding closure to harvest of large areas of the U.S. mainland continental shelf, such as the large area of the Southern California shelf, are simply not scientifically supportable from a fishery management (sustainable harvest) perspective. Though there may be other aesthetic benefits, such a closure would likely severely reduce harvest potential of non-stressed stocks, be insufficient to substantially enhance severely stressed stocks, shift effort to other areas, and likely have a substantial negative economic impact on both the commercial and recreational fishing industries."

For information on obtaining a copy of the February 2003 Ecological Applications supplement, e-mail a request to: For information on obtaining a copy of the December 2003 issue of Fisheries, e-mail a request to:, or contact the article author directly by e-mail at:

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