Studies conducted in California and elsewhere provide support for the use of marine reserves as a tool for managing fisheries and protecting marine habitats, according to biologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
A recent study in the Gulf of California, for example, confirmed the validity of a key concept behind marine reserves--the idea that offspring produced in a protected area can replenish the stocks of harvested species outside the reserve.
"It seems really obvious, but it had never been tested," said Peter Raimondi, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC and coauthor of a paper describing the findings in the journal PLoS ONE.
"We created a model to predict the dispersal of larvae outside the reserves, and the results were completely consistent with our predictions," he said.
Raimondi is involved in a collaborative project (called PANGAS) in which researchers are working with Mexican fishing communities to study and manage fisheries in the northern Gulf of California. Local fishermen in the area of Puerto Peñasco set up a network of marine reserves as part of a community-based effort to manage their resources. Ecological and social studies conducted before, during, and after the establishment of those reserves enabled the researchers to track the results.