MEPS 570:187-202 (2017)  -  DOI:

Reef-wide beneficial shifts in fish population structure following establishment of marine protected areas in Philippine coral reefs

Robert Y. Fidler1,*, Ralph G. Turingan1, Alan T. White2, Moonyeen N. R. Alava2

1Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL 32901, USA
2Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation, Inc., Cebu City, Philippines
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine protected areas (MPAs) have become critical components of fisheries management programs worldwide. Despite their widespread usage, the performance of MPAs in sustaining fisheries remains debated, partially due to inconsistent results across studies. Here, we aim to standardize conclusions regarding MPA performance throughout the Philippines using a ‘reef-wide’ meta-analysis. This analysis uses pooled visual census data from 39 matched pairs of MPAs and fished reefs surveyed twice over a mean period of 3 yr, allowing for the comparison of abundance and demographic structure of fishes across both protected and fished areas over time. The meta-analysis revealed that (1) although fish density was higher inside MPAs within individual sampling periods, reef-wide fish density generally either increased or remained stable over time, and (2) reef-wide increases in large-bodied fish were evident between survey periods, indicating positive demographic shifts within both MPAs and adjacent areas. These results suggest that, over relatively few years of protection, MPAs in the Philippines are able to promote beneficial shifts in fish population structure throughout entire reef systems rather than simply maintaining stable populations within their borders. Demonstrating such benefits to adjacent reefs is critically important to the success of MPAs in the Philippines because compliance with closures of fishing grounds increases with realized benefits to fishing communities. The reef-wide framework of MPA assessment demonstrated in this study presents the advantages of including adjacent fisheries as integrated components when quantifying MPA performance, revealing trends that are indistinguishable when using spatial comparisons between MPAs and fished reefs.

KEY WORDS: MPA · Marine reserve · Spillover · Fisheries management · Coral-reef fish · Meta-analysis

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Cite this article as: Fidler RY, Turingan RG, White AT, Alava MNR (2017) Reef-wide beneficial shifts in fish population structure following establishment of marine protected areas in Philippine coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 570:187-202.

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