Marine protected areas aren't helping fish populations recover

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Animals News

Fish,Conservation

Protected zones are meant to let adult fish populations recover from overfishing, but an analysis of 111 sites in the Caribbean finds that this is not happening in most cases

Fish populations aren’t bouncing back in marine protected areas in the Caribbean Sea, according to a 12-year study. Poor enforcement of marine protection regulations, coastal development and rising water temperatures are probably to blame, say researchers.

The Mesoamerican Reef, which stretches more than 1000 kilometres along the Caribbean coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, is home to a wide range of wildlife, including more than 500 species of fish and 65 species of coral.Over the past few decades, the governments of these countries have put many marine protected areas in place with the aim of protecting the reef’s valuable biodiversity and restoring fish populations that have declined due to overfishing.

At the 11 areas in which fish populations rebounded, the study found there was adequate enforcement of MPA regulations and fewer sea surface temperature fluctuations. Sites with poor recovery tended to see the opposite, with insufficient enforcement of protections, more coastal activity from people and more temperature anomalies.

“Enforcement plays a big part in how successful some of these areas are,” says Canty. He suggests that local people, whose livelihoods rely on adult fish, should be given a greater role in managing the MPAs. Ensuring that MPAs are placed in areas that are more shielded from climate change and easier to manage is also vital, he says.

Fish Conservation

 

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