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PLOS ONE  2011 

Large Recovery of Fish Biomass in a No-Take Marine Reserve

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023601

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Abstract:

No-take marine reserves are effective management tools used to restore fish biomass and community structure in areas depleted by overfishing. Cabo Pulmo National Park (CPNP) was created in 1995 and is the only well enforced no-take area in the Gulf of California, Mexico, mostly because of widespread support from the local community. In 1999, four years after the establishment of the reserve, there were no significant differences in fish biomass between CPNP (0.75 t ha?1 on average) and other marine protected areas or open access areas in the Gulf of California. By 2009, total fish biomass at CPNP had increased to 4.24 t ha?1 (absolute biomass increase of 3.49 t ha?1, or 463%), and the biomass of top predators and carnivores increased by 11 and 4 times, respectively. However, fish biomass did not change significantly in other marine protected areas or open access areas over the same time period. The absolute increase in fish biomass at CPNP within a decade is the largest measured in a marine reserve worldwide, and it is likely due to a combination of social (strong community leadership, social cohesion, effective enforcement) and ecological factors. The recovery of fish biomass inside CPNP has resulted in significant economic benefits, indicating that community-managed marine reserves are a viable solution to unsustainable coastal development and fisheries collapse in the Gulf of California and elsewhere.

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