Tortugas marine reserve yields more, larger fish

February 4, 2013

A new NOAA research report finds that both fish populations and commercial and recreational anglers have benefited from "no-take" protections in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The report, "An Integrated Biogeographic Assessment of Populations and Fisheries in Dry Tortugas: Effects of No-take Reserves," is the first to evaluate how the 151-square nautical mile Tortugas Ecological Reserve affects the living marine resources of the region and the people whose livelihoods are connected to them.

The report's analysis of long-term socioeconomic and scientific information found that after the ecological reserve was designated in 2001:

  • Overfished species such as black and red grouper, yellowtail and mutton snapper increased in presence, abundance and size inside the reserve and throughout the region;
  • Annual gatherings of spawning mutton snapper, once thought to be wiped out from overfishing, began to reform inside the Reserve;
  • Commercial catches of reef fish in the region increased, and continue to do so; and
  • No financial losses were experienced by regional commercial or recreational fishers;
"The findings in this report are good news for NOAA management efforts to enhance fisheries and other natural resources in the Florida Keys," said Holly Bamford, Ph. D., NOAA assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service. "The results are equally important in other areas where NOAA science provides support to management decisions that are made to best utilize and protect our natural resources."

To assess economic effects of the area closure, social scientists from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and University of Massachusetts analyzed catch landings and revenues from commercial fishers (reef fish, shrimp, spiny lobster and king mackerel) and surveyed guides operating within the Tortugas region before and for five years after reserve protection.

"This research shows that marine reserves and economically viable fishing industries can coexist," said Sean Morton, sanctuary superintendent. "The health of our economy is tied to the health of our oceans. They are not mutually exclusive."

Key West commercial fishery landings had an estimated value of $56 million in 2011, up from $40 million in 2001, according to NOAA's Fisheries of the United States reports. Ocean recreation and tourism support approximately 33,000 jobs in the Florida Keys.

Contributors to the report also included researchers from NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, and University of Miami.

The 151-square nautical mile Tortugas was designated by the Florida Keys sanctuary in 2001, and its design involved extensive collaboration between commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, scientists, conservationists, citizens-at-large and resource managers. The reserve is closed to all consumptive use, including fishing and anchoring, and a portion of it is open to permitted marine researchers only.

Explore further: Dry Tortugas show positive trends: Protected area slowly rebounding

Related Stories

NOAA bans commercial harvesting of krill

July 13, 2009

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today published a final rule in the Federal Register prohibiting the harvesting of krill in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the coasts of California, Oregon, ...

One fish, two fish ... reef fish

March 21, 2011

Marine biologists have solved a conundrum that has stumped them for years – how to count reef fish. It may sound simple, but the task is actually complex and critical in helping to evaluate the state of our oceans, ...

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.