Action

Control human activity in a marine protected area with a zonation system of restrictions

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages

  • Eight studies examined the effects of controlling human activity in a marine protected area with a zonation system of restrictions on marine fish populations. Three studies were in the Indian Ocean (South Africa), two were in the Coral Sea (Australia), and one was in each of the Southern Atlantic Ocean (South Africa), the Ligurian Sea (Italy) and the Philippine Sea (Philippines).

COMMUNITY RESPONSE (1 STUDY) 

  • Richness/diversity (1 study): One site comparison study in the Philippine Sea found a higher number of fish species in the no-fishing/no access zone of a multi-zoned marine protected area compared to two partially fished zones and unprotected fished areas 10 to 15 years after implementation. 

POPULATION RESPONSE (4 STUDIES)

  • Condition (4 studies): Two of four site comparison studies in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Ligurian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Coral Sea found that controlling human activity in marine protected areas with a zonation system of restrictions resulted in larger average lengths of steentjies and three seabream species three years after implementation compared to unprotected fished areas, and lengths were largest within a no-take zone than a partially fished zone. Two other studies found larger sizes of four of four coral reef fish in a zone where nearly all fishing is prohibited compared to an adjacent zone with fewer fishing restrictions two to seven years after protection, and of two of six fish feeding groups in no-entry zones compared to both no-take and fished zones protected between 10 and 20 years.
  • Abundance (6 studies): Two of four site comparison studies (one replicated) in the Ligurian Sea, Philippine Sea and the Coral Sea found that controlling human activity in protected areas with a zonation system of restrictions resulted in a greater biomass and/or abundance of fish species after 3–15 years compared to unprotected areas outside, and between the zones fish abundance varied with the level of restriction and between individual fish groups and sizes. The other two studies found higher density, biomass, and abundance of fish in non-fished zones (no-entry and no-take) compared to fished zones inside areas protected for 10 to 27 years depending on region, but the effect varied between fish feeding groups, zone protection level and reef region. One site comparison study in the Indian Ocean found higher abundances of four of four reef fish species in a zone where nearly all fishing is prohibited, compared to an adjacent zone with fewer fishing restrictions. One site comparison study in the Southern Atlantic Ocean found that steentjies in a protected zone closed to fishing but open to other recreational activities had a different age and sex structure to a fished multipurpose zone, and both were different to a distant unprotected fished site with low steentjie exploitation.

BEHAVIOUR (2 STUDIES)

  • Use (2 studies): Two site comparison studies in the Indian Ocean found that in marine protected areas with zonation systems of activity controls, most of the individuals of the reef fish species tagged and released inside the protected areas were recaptured again at almost the same locations over the following nine or four years, and mainly in the zones where all or nearly all fishing was prohibited for up to 20 years, indicating increased protection from fishing.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A site comparison study in 2001–2013 of four surf-zone sites in the Indian Ocean, off South Africa (Mann et al. 2015) found that the majority of recaptures of tagged fish from five species made over a nine-year period, occurred inside a marine reserve where fishing activity was controlled by zones, mainly in the no-take zone where all fishing has been banned for over 20 years. Most individuals of the five main study species were recaptured within 200 m of their original release site: grey grunter Pomadasys furcatus: 88%, catface rockcod Epinephelus andersoni: 84%, yellowbelly rockcod Epinephelus marginatus: 92%, cavebass Dinoperca petersi: 88% and speckled snapper Lutjanus rivulatus: 79%. Overall, 61% of fish were originally tagged at sites in the no-take zone and the rest in the zone that allows shore angling, recreational boat angling and spearfishing for pelagic gamefish only. In addition, the maximum times between release and capture ranged from 287–3,163 days; average recapture rate was 29%, and 632 of the 3,224 fish tagged were recaptured at least once. The St Lucia Marine Reserve in South Africa was established in 1979. From November 2001– 2013, a total of 6,613 fish from 71 species were tagged and released at four sites in the reserve: two in a no-take zone and two in a restricted fishing zone. Over the same sampling period, details of fish recaptured in the reserve by the research team and angling public, and other reported recaptures in fished areas outside the reserve were recorded.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A site comparison study in 2006–2007 of three seabed sites in the Atlantic Ocean, off South Africa (Tunley et al. 2009) found that in a multi-zoned protected area steentjies Spondyliosoma emarginatum in a zone closed to all fishing were larger, and had a different age and sex structure, than a fished multipurpose zone and both showed differences to a distant unprotected fished site with low steentjie exploitation. Overall, average size of steentjies was larger in the no-fishing protected zone than the fished zone (non-fished: 238–271 mm, fished: 210–262 mm) and both were larger compared to a distant unprotected fished site (187–218 mm). The frequency of females was highest in the fished protected zone (reserve non-fished: 53%, reserve fished: 83%, distant non-targeted: 39%) and the frequency of males was highest at the distant site (reserve non-fished: 17%, reserve fished: 5%, distant non-targeted: 57%) (transitional males make up the difference). In addition, larger and older females and larger male steentjies were fewer in the fished protected zone compared to the no-fishing zone (data presented graphically). Steentjies were captured by line fishing at two sites inside Langebaan Lagoon reserve in April-September 2007. One site was a no-fishing zone permitting sailing and canoeing only and one was a multi-purpose recreational zone permitting fishing and other activities (year of implementation not reported). Steentjies were also caught at a third site off Struisbaai by research vessel from November 2006 to April 2007. Commercial and recreational fishing is permitted but steentjies are not generally targeted. A total of 319 steentjies were sampled for length, sex and age.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A site comparison study in 2004–2005 of four rocky reef areas in the Ligurian Sea, Italy (La Mesa et al. 2011) found that length, biomass and density of three seabream Diplodus species was greater in a three year old marine protected area split into three fishing management zones, compared to adjacent unprotected fished areas, and differences between zones varied with sampling season (length) and level of restrictions (biomass and density). The average seabream length was greater in all three zones of the protected area than outside (inside: 12–24 cm, outside: 8–13 cm), however differences between the protected zones varied with sampling season. The density and biomass of sharpsnout seabream Diplodus puntazzo varied between protected zones and was higher overall than outside the protected area (results reported as statistical analysis). White seabream Diplodus sargus density and biomass was higher inside compared to outside, except in the management zone with intermediate protection where only biomass was higher and was affected by zone and sampling time. The biomass, but not density, of common two-banded seabream Diplodus vulgaris differed between protected zones and was higher in the two management zones with a greater level of protection compared to outside. The Portofino marine protected area (346 ha) was established in 1999, with protection enforced in 2001. Three levels of management protection were in place: a no-entry, no-take zone, a zone permitted only for local traditional commercial and recreational fishers (see paper for specified gears), and a zone where, in addition, non-resident shore fishing with hook and line is permitted. Fish were sampled by underwater visual census (25 × 5 m transects) in November 2004 and 2005 at two sites in each management zone of the protected area and at six sites in unprotected areas.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A site comparison study in 2006–2011 of two coral reef areas in a zoned marine protected area in the Indian Ocean, South Africa (Maggs et al. 2013, same experimental set-up as Maggs et al. 2013) found higher abundance and larger size of four of four coral reef fish species in a ‘no-take’ zone where almost all fishing is prohibited, compared to an adjacent zone with fewer fishing restrictions, two to seven years after protection. In each year, individual catch rates were higher inside the no-take zone than the fished zone for all four species: slinger Chrysoblephus puniceus (3.1 vs 0.8 fish/angler/h), Scotsman Polysteganus praeorbitalis (1.2 vs 0.3 fish/angler/h), poenskop Cymatoceps nasutus (0.4 vs 0.2 fish/angler/h) and yellowbelly rockcod Epinephelus marginatus (0.6 vs 0.1 fish/angler/h). Average lengths were also higher (slinger: 293 vs 240, Scotsman: 415 vs 359, poenskop: 417 vs 380, rockcod: 495 vs 435 mm). In addition, three of the four species (slinger, Scotsman, rockcod) showed increases in size over time (data not tested statistically). The Pondoland Marine Protected Area (800 km2) was designated in 2004 and comprises a central ‘no-take area’ (400 km2) closed to all offshore (vessel based) exploitation. On either side of the no-take zone are two controlled fishing areas where offshore line fishing and spearfishing are permitted. No commercial fishing, such as trawling or long-lining, is permitted anywhere in the protected area. From April 2006 to June 2011 quarterly research angling was conducted at two sites in the no-take zone and two in the nearby exploited zone (6 h angling in each zone) at 10–30 m depth. Data were analysed for four species that had been depleted by line fishing.

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A site comparison study in 2006–2010 of four coral reef sites in the Indian Ocean, off South Africa (Maggs et al. 2013, same experimental set-up as Maggs et al. 2013) found that the majority of recaptures of four of four fish species that were tagged inside a marine protected area where fishing activity is controlled by zones, occurred close to the original release site, mainly in the zone where nearly all fishing is prohibited, thus were protected from most fishing activity. Overall, 94% of recaptured individuals of four of four species were recorded within the same zone where they were originally tagged (mainly in the no-take zone), and most within 250 m of release site (Scotsman Polysteganus praeorbitalis: 72%, slinger Chrysoblephus puniceus: 76%, yellowbelly rockcod Epinephelus andersoni: 90%, catface rockcod Epinephelus marginatus 97%). In addition, recaptures for only 19 fish were recorded outside the protected area (3–1,059 km away). Recapture rates ranged from 8-60% and time between release and capture from 0 to 1,390 days. A total of 1,022 fish (780 in the no-fishing zone) of the four study species were tagged inside the two-zoned Pondoland Marine Protected Area (800 km2, of which half is restricted no-take, year implemented was not reported) from April 2006 to July 2010. Fish data (tag recaptures) were collected quarterly in the protected area by line fishing at two sites in the ‘no-fishing’ zone (no offshore vessel based fishing) and two sites in a controlled fishing zone (permits offshore line fishing and spearfishing). No commercial fishing such as trawling or longlining is permitted anywhere in the protected area. Recapture data from areas outside the protected area were reported by the angling public.

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A site comparison study in 2011–2013 of 18 coral reef sites in the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea, Australia (Rizzari et al. 2015) found that in a marine protected area where human activity has been controlled by zones for 10-20 years, two of six different groups of fish were more abundant and two had a larger size and biomass in no-entry zones than no-take and fished zones. Densities of apex predators and browser herbivores were higher in the no-take zone compared to both the no-take and fished zones but there were no differences between areas for targeted and non-targeted medium-sized predators and two other groups of herbivorous fish (data reported graphically and as statistical results). Fish size and biomass differed between areas only for the targeted and non-targeted predator groups and were higher in the no-entry zone than the other zones (data reported as statistical results). In addition, the differences in the predator groups due to protection level were not found to influence the density, size or biomass of the herbivorous fish groups. Reefs in three management zones within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park were surveyed from October-April 2011–2013: no-entry (protection >20 years), no-take (protected 10–20 years where fishing is prohibited but non-extractive activities like diving are allowed), and fished areas. Fish were categorized into six groups according to food chain position and exploitation status (see original paper for details). At each reef (six/zone), apex predators were surveyed 2-6 times using 45-minute timed swims (20 m wide transect) and medium-sized predators and herbivores >10 cm total length using 10-16 transects (10 × 50 m).

    Study and other actions tested
  7. A replicated, site comparison study in 2013–2014 of two coral reef regions of the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea, Australia (Bobiles et al. 2016) found that although density and biomass of fish from all feeding groups was higher at reefs in at least one of two non-fished zones (no-entry and no-take) in a marine park compared to fished zones, it varied with zone protection level and reef region. The density of only one of five fish groups (predators) was higher in non-fished zones at both of the reef regions; in two of two no-entry zones (5–6 fish/ha) and one of two no-take zones (5 fish/ha) compared to fished zones (1–3 fish/ha). For the remaining four groups in the food chain (commercially targeted and non-targeted mid-ranking predators, mobile herbivores and territorial grazers) fish density was higher in non-fished zones at one reef region only, and only at one of either the no-entry or no-take zones. Higher fish biomasses for all groups were similarly recorded in at least one no-entry or no-take zone across both regions, but the reef region it was reported in varied (see original paper for individual data). Between February–April in 2013 and 2014, two different regions of the Great Barrier Reef were surveyed by underwater visual census, six reefs (two/management zone) in the Ribbon Reef region (~50 km2) and nine reefs (three/management zone) in the Swains Reef region (~100 km2). Management zones allowed different activities: no-entry zones closed to all human activities, no­-take zones that prohibited extractive activities (fishing) but permitted diving and boating, and fished zones open to fishing and general use. Fish were surveyed by trophic groups: two 45-minute timed swims for top predators; 50 × 10 m wide transects for mid-ranking predators and mobile herbivores; and 50 × 2 m wide transects for territorial grazers. Biomass was calculated using length-weight relationships. Duration of protection in no-take and no-entry zones ranged from 11–27 years.

    Study and other actions tested
  8. A site comparison study in 2009–2014 of a coral reef area off San Miguel Island in the Philippine Sea, Philippines (Casey et al. 2017) found more fish species and a higher overall fish abundance of commercially important fish in a no-entry zone of a marine protected area, compared to two partially fished zones and unprotected fished areas 10-15 years after implementation, and the effect of protection varied between individual species groups and sizes. Across all years, the average species richness and fish abundance of commercially important species was highest inside the no-entry zone (species: 11–12, abundance: 28–41 fish/transect) and was similar between partially fished protected zones (species: 3–8, abundance: 5–30 fish/transect) and non-protected fished areas (species: 4–7, abundance: 10–15 fish/transect). For the top six commercial fish family groups, the abundance of market-sized individuals of five groups differed between all three levels of protection, whereas for non-target sizes only one differed (see paper for individual data). The San Miguel Island Marine Protected Area was designated in 1998 and had two zones with different levels of protection: a 1.0 km2 sanctuary area (no fishing or recreational activity) and a 1.25 km2 partially protected area (traditional fishing - gill net, spear, traps and line - permitted), with an outer 100 m buffer protected zone. The unprotected area was fished with active (e.g. seines) and passive gears. In May 2009 and 2010 and December 2014, fish were surveyed in each of the three zones and the adjacent unprotected open area by underwater visual census along a total of 10 haphazardly placed transects (50 m2) at least 10 m apart. Transects were located at reefs 1.3 km offshore and at depths of 9–21 m.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Taylor, N., Clarke, L.J., Alliji, K., Barrett, C., McIntyre, R., Smith, R.K., and Sutherland, W.J. (2021) Marine Fish Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Selected Interventions. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

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Marine Fish Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Marine Fish Conservation
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