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Hidden benefits and risks of partial protection for coral reef fisheries

Patrick F. Smallhorn-West, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811 Australia; WorldFish, Jalan Batu Maung, Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia
Philippa J Cohen, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811 Australia; WorldFish, Jalan Batu Maung, Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia
Renato A. Morais, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811 Australia; Research Hub for Coral Reef Ecosystem Functions, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Australia
Fraser A Januchowski-Hartley, Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Science & Engineering, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
Daniela Ceccarelli, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811 Australia
Siola'a Malimali, Tonga Ministry of Fisheries, Sopu, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Karen Stone, Vava'u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA), Vava'u, Tonga
Regon Warren, WorldFish, Jalan Batu Maung, Bayan Lepas, Penang, Malaysia
Joshua E. Cinner, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811 Australia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-13112-270126

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Abstract

Partially protected areas are now the dominant global form of spatial management aimed at preserving ecosystem integrity and managing human use. However, most evaluations of their efficacy use only a narrow set of conservation indicators that reflect a fraction of ways in which protection can succeed or fail. In this paper, we examine three case studies of partially protected coral reef fishery systems to evaluate benefits and risks of their use as a management tool. We use data from community-based management arrangements in three Pacific Island countries to demonstrate three vignettes of how partial protection can boost fisheries production, enhance the ease with which fishers catch their prey, and alter the composition of fisheries yields. These changes in fisheries productivity, catchability, and vulnerability under partial protection carry substantial benefits for fishers. However, they also carry significant risks for ecosystems and fisheries livelihoods unless adaptively managed so as to confer the short to medium term benefits in resource performance without risking longer term sustainability.

Key words

community-based marine management; conservation; impact evaluation; local management; marine protected area; traditional ecological knowledge

Copyright © 2022 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087