Marine protected areas and small-scale fisheries
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have long been recognized to be effective tools for spatial management, conservation of biodiversity and fisheries enhancement (Rodríguez-Rodríguez, 2016; Claudet et al., 2020), leading Member States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010 to agree to cover 10% of their coastal and marine areas with MPAs by 2020 (Aichi Target 11). In 2020 MPAs cover 5.3% world's oceans, with 2.5% in no-take marine reserves offering protection, even though a global no-take coverage of at least 30% of the world's oceans by 2030 has been proposed (Marine Conservation Institute; http://www.mpatlas.org/progress/proposals/). Although the 10% target has not been met, there has been an exponential increase in the establishment of MPAs over the past decade as countries have rushed to fulfill their international obligations, resulting in increasing conflicts with Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) and other stakeholders in coastal areas, even though many MPAs allow SSF and other activities in partial protection areas or even in the whole MPA (Lloret et al., 2018; Zupan et al., 2018).
Although the benefits of no-take or total protection areas in terms of population and ecosystem recovery (i.e. the “reserve effect”) have been reported in studies from around the world, evidence of socio-economic benefits are not as well documented (Di Franco et al., 2016). In recent years this has led to a more holistic, interdisciplinary, and ecosystem-based approach to the management of SSF and MPAs, considering human and socio-economic dimensions, in particular of SSF (Barreto et al., 2020).
Successful coexistence of SSF and MPAs requires management plans, regulations, collaboration between fishers, scientists and managers, effective monitoring and data collection, promotion of sustainable fishing practices, enforcement, compliance and the evaluation of the socio-economic benefits of MPA, including the evaluation of ecosystem services, especially fisheries provisioning services. This special issue on MPAs and Small-Scale Fisheries brings together contributions on MPAs and SSF from around the world (Australia, Bahamas, Cuba, Galapagos, Greece, Mauritania and Portugal), that address some of these issues.
The article by Kiggins et al. (2020) evaluates the effects of protection of seagrass habitats in New South Wales, Australia, on fish abundance and diversity by comparing the no-take zone with fished zones, using baited remote underwater videos (BRUVs). Although no differences in fish assemblages, species richness or total abundance were found between locations, there were significant differences across time at most locations and some species showed consistently higher abundance at certain locations. This study highlights the importance of protection of seagrass habitats and the difficulties of evaluating the reserve effect when there are confounding factors such as seasonal variation if fish assemblages and abundances and low fishing pressure in the fished zones.
Grimmel et al. (2020) also used the same non-invasive BRUV technique to assess faunal communities and habitat use in shallow water seagrass and mangrove habitats in the Bahamas. This is one of the few studies to show that BRUVs are suitable for quantifying community structure and faunal abundance in very shallow, nearshore habitats. The study provides valuable information for spatial planning and conservation in the Bahamas, where there is intense human pressure on the coastal zone.
Underwater visual census techniques (UVC) were used to compare commercial species (Haemulidae, Lutjanidae and Serranidae families) within a relatively small (3000 ha) MPA in Cuba with similar fished areas outside the MPA (Horta e Costa et al., 2020). Results of the analysis showed no reserve effect, possibly due to the small size of the MPA, which does not provide adequate protection, especially to species that form spawning aggregations outside the MPA where they are highly vulnerable to fishing. The study highlights the importance of incorporating information on the biology and movement ecology of key species in the design of MPAs.
The articles by Ramírez-González et al. (2020) and Trégarot et al. (2020) concern MPAs where commercial fishing is allowed. In the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR), overexploitation of the sea cucumber Isostichopus fuscus lead to the closure of the fishery in 2016. Ramírez-González et al. (2020) provide an updated stock assessment of this valuable resource based on new estimates of life history parameters and estimates of exploitable biomass based on habitat mapping. The authors propose a methodology to establish the total allowed catch (TAC) of the sea cucumber in the GMR.
In the study on the National Park of Banc d’Arguin (PNBA), Mauritania, the largest MPA in West Africa, covering a marine area of 5400 km2, Trégarot et al. (2020) investigate the role of the PNBA in sustaining SSF and industrial fisheries, focusing on the economic evaluation of the SSF and the contribution of the PNBA to the continental shelf fisheries beyond the borders of the MPA, by means of eco-trophic modelling. They also carry out a contingent evaluation to measure the heritage dimension of the SSF for different possible management scenarios. The article also emphasizes the importance of stakeholder involvement and empowerment in the management of a MPA that has evolved from essentially subsistence SSF to commercial fisheries that are exerting increasing pressure on natural resources and on an ecosystem that provides important provisioning services to commercial fisheries in the continental shelf areas beyond the MPA.
Lack of compliance and enforcement of regulations are major factors contributing to the observed ineffectiveness of MPAs worldwide. Unlike large-size fishing vessels that can be electronically monitored by the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), the vast majority of SSF vessels in the European Union can not be monitored. Moutopoulos et al. (2020) provide an original approach allowing mapping of fisheries infringements in Hellenic waters, based on official control records. Mapping of infringements and fishing effort can therefor provide a basis for improved spatial management, monitoring and enforcement of fishing regulations.
In the last article, Pita et al. (2020) examine the perceptions of fishers towards the largest MPA in continental Portugal, the highly contested Arrábida Marine Park that was fully implemented in 1999, with one full protection area, four partial protection areas where limited fishing activities are allowed (octopus pots, traps and jigs) and three buffer zones where all SSF and recreational fishing activities are allowed. The study highlights the continued lack of acceptance and the importance of involving stakeholders at all stages of the implementation, monitoring and management of MPAs.
The studies published in this special issue of Aquaculture and Fisheries illustrate the complexities and problems associated with evaluating the benefits of MPAs and reconciling conservation driven goals of MPAs with socio-economic and human dimensions of SSF. The articles, on SSF and MPAs from around the world, add to the growing literature on MPAs and SSF and will hopefully contribute to improving conservation and management, the achievement of international targets for protection of marine coastal areas and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals such as SDG14.b, that calls for the provision of access of small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.