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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 580:37-56 (2017)  -  DOI:

Benefits of a replenishment zone revealed through trends in focal species at Glover’s Atoll, Belize

Alexander Tewfik1,*, Elizabeth A. Babcock2, Janet Gibson1, Virginia R. Burns Perez1, Samantha Strindberg

1Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Conservation Program, PO Box 768, 1755 Coney Drive, 2nd Floor, Belize City, Belize
2Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
3Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Conservation Program, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York 10460, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine protected areas or replenishment zones have become one of the more popular tools within an ecosystem-based management approach aimed at balancing environmental health with socio-economic needs. We examined changes in populations of an ecologically representative suite of focal species, including ones important to local small-scale fisheries, over a 7 yr period using both independent visual surveys and fisheries-dependent data. Most small-scale fisheries targets showed increases in density, biomass, or size within the replenishment zone and stable or increasing catch rates beyond replenishment zone boundaries. Lower trophic level, high recruiting species of more limited movement such as parrotfish, conch, and lobster appeared to respond most clearly to protection, while higher trophic level, late maturing, and more widely dispersing snappers and groupers generally displayed more limited recovery. Patterns of mid-trophic level hogfish and queen triggerfish appeared to be linked to the availability of appropriate prey, i.e. conch and urchins respectively, with increasing angelfish catch per unit effort appearing to replace large parrotfish since the ban on harvesting herbivorous fish in 2009. Patterns of triggerfish and angelfish may also be linked to benthic cover, given their preferences for urchins and sponges, respectively. These results address the core management objectives for Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Belize, to ensure sustainability of its resources and enhance economic benefits from fisheries. Our study highlights the importance of using other fisheries conservation strategies (size limits, closed seasons) in conjunction with replenishment zones, as well as direct consultation with resource users in order to maximize benefits.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef fishes · Invertebrate fisheries · Small-scale fisheries · Marine protected area · Trophic structure

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Cite this article as: Tewfik A, Babcock EA, Gibson J, Burns Perez VR, Strindberg S (2017) Benefits of a replenishment zone revealed through trends in focal species at Glover’s Atoll, Belize. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 580:37-56.

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