Species recover in marine reserves

Más Galapagos proposes the creation of a new marine area. Photo: EFE VALORE

Species recover in marine reserves

Isabel Alarcon
January 5, 2021 00:00

Marine reserves not only protect biodiversity but have also been shown to encourage increased populations of commercial species. Although these protected areas cover only 8% of the world’s oceans, evidence shows that their existence is necessary to prevent overexploitation of marine resources.

A study published in November 2020 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that if the protected area in the ocean is strategically extended by just 5%, catches can increase by at least 20% .

To reach that conclusion, the researchers analyzed the locations of more than 1,330 commercially important populations. Based on the findings, a network of marine reserves designed to improve fishery productivity can contribute to substantial growth in future catches. This shows that there is a link between preservation and food provision.

The idea is that these protected areas are established in places affected by overfishing, so that their populations gradually recover. By applying these measures, production could increase between 9 million and 12 million metric tons per year.

Eliécer Cruz, manager for Latin America at Island Conservation and spokesperson for Más Galapagos, explains that this is due to the phenomenon known as spillover. This occurs when the populations within the reserve, thanks to the optimal conditions, grow and leave the protected area towards fishing areas.

Luis Suárez, vice president and executive director of Conservation International Ecuador, says that these marine reserves are of great importance for the fishing sector, because it is where the fish go to feed, reproduce and take refuge. This is evident, he points out, by seeing the number of fishing vessels waiting outside the reserves to fish.

An investigation by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) shows some examples of the contribution of marine reserves to the improvement of species populations. For example, after 21 years of protection, the predatory fish Pagrus auratus was six times more common within New Zealand’s Leigh Marine Reserve. The king lobster was almost 1.6 times more abundant and its shell growth was evident. Currently, the More Galapagos initiative proposes the creation of a new protected area of ​​445,951 km2 around the sea of ​​the islands.

According to this project, 94% of the catches of the national fisheries will not be affected and the other 6% will be recovered with the spillover effect. In this way, a more sustainable fishing activity could be had.

This content has been originally published by Diario EL COMERCIO at the following address: https: //www.elcomercio.com/tendences/especies-recuperan-reservas-marinas-biodiversidad.html.

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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