Small coral reef reserves are partially successful in sustaining coral reef fisheries around the island of Bohol, Philippines

  • Published source details Samoilys M.A., Giles B.G., Cabrera B., Anticamara J.A., Brunio E.O. & Vincent A.C.J. (2007) Effectiveness of five small Philippines' coral reef reserves for fish populations depends on site-specific factors, particularly enforcement history. Biological Conservation, 136, 584-601


Community-managed no-take marine reserves may be promoted in an attempt to conserve biodiversity and sustain coral reef fisheries. It is important to assess the impact of such reserves both in terms of conservation and to demonstrate the benefits of such reserves to local people involved in such endeavours and who are ultimately affected by potential degradation of fishing grounds if exploited unsustainably. This study assessed the effectiveness of five such community-governed small marine reserves in the central Philippines.

Study sites: The study was undertaken within and around five small marine reserve sites (Handumon, Batasan, Asinan, Bilang-bilangan and Pandanon) located off north-west Bohol island, central Philippines. The monitoring programme was implemented through a local non-governmental organisation (Project Seahorse Foundation for Marine Conservation) in cooperation with local communities. The enforcement and compliance history and current practices of each reserve were determined through informal interviews with community representatives.

Coral extent and fish surveys: Changes in fish communities in the marine reserves, at sites within 1 km of their boundaries, and three distant control (non-reserve) sites over seven years were monitored by underwater visual censuses of 53 fish families.

Surveys began in 1998 and were conducted bi-annually coinciding with the dry season (February-May) and the wet season (August-November). At commencement, the extent of the coral reef area was established. Underwater censuses recorded fish abundance and size; data up to the end of 2004 are reported here.

Compliance: Compliance level varied greatly, with no-fishing only well enforced and respected in three, Handumon, Batasan and Asinan. The other two reserves of Bilang-bilangan and Pandanon received little or no protection. Years of compliance also differed among reserves.

Significant (positive) differences between fish communities were found within and at boundary reserve sites only at the two reserves with strictest compliance to fishing prohibition. The strongest responses to protection were found in predatory fishes (groupers and breams) and butterflyfish (generally larger taxa particularly targeted in local fisheries). Other abundant fish families showed only weak effects of protection. The detection of fish responses to reserves was complicated by potential 'spill-over' effects, site-specific factors (particularly compliance) and the difficulty of identifying appropriate control areas (e.g. of comparable habitat, and there were significant differences at control sites in all cases).

The authors conclude that in this central region of the Philippines, the study demonstrates the value of small reserves for fish communities, particularly species especially sought after in local fisheries, conditional on good levels of enforcement and compliance.

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