More than a decade ago, California established marine protected areas (MPAs) in state waters around the northern Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara.
(From Science Daily) — Several years later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) extended these MPAs into the federal waters of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
To evaluate whether the MPAs are meeting their ecological goals, marine scientists from the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) have been monitoring these rocky reef and kelp forest communities. Three UC Santa Barbara PISCO scientists have now published an analysis of 10 years of monitoring data for the MPAs in the Channel Islands network. The results appear in the journal Scientific Reports.
“The Channel Islands MPAs appear to be fulfilling their role as refuges for many fish and invertebrate species,” said lead author Jennifer Caselle, a research biologist at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI). “2013 marked the 10-year anniversary of the Channel Islands MPAs. A snapshot view in 2008 indicated that the MPAs were enhancing ecological communities, but we didn’t have enough data to assess the long-term changes. Now, for the first time, we can compare long-term trends in the protected areas with areas open to fishing.”
After the first five years of protection, scientists found that fish species targeted by fishermen had both greater density (numbers of fish per area) and biomass (total weight per area) inside MPAs as compared to reference sites outside — and this was still true in 2013. “We expected to find an increase in biomass inside the MPAs for fish species that are the targets of fishing, and that did occur across the MPA network,” Caselle said. “Perhaps more important, we also found increases in fished species outside in the unprotected areas. That means that one of the most common fears of fishermen was not realized — and that’s huge.”
Read the full article here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150916162928.htm