Spanish scientists claim marine reserves vital to protect fish numbers

Marine reserves best way to safeguard future fishing stocks

An international study led by scientists belonging to the Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO), on the functioning and effect of marine reserves on live resources has shown that the benefits for fish species that receive protection in marine reserves depend mainly on three factors: the continuity of habitats through the limits of the whole reserve, the mobility of the species and the types of fishing methods used.

The report on the effectiveness of the protected marine areas in the Mediterranean has been published by the prestigious scientific journal ‘Marine Ecology Progress Series’. The results of the study says that the use of marine reserves – under certain conditions of design and control – is an efficient instrument for the rational exploitation of live resources such as the potential protection of species in danger and the conservation of the ecosystem. The species studied are of high economic value and subjected to high exploitation.

These factors were observed in the Banyuls and Carry Le Rouet marine reserves in France and also a number of marine reserves in Spain: Tabarca, Cabo de Palos, Islas Medas and the national maritime park of Cabrera.

The research forms part of the multidisciplinary European Project BIOMEX,(BIOMasse Export from Marine Protected Areas and its impact on fisheries in the Western Mediterranean Sea). According to Raquel Goñi, one of the leading researchers for the Centro Oceanográfico de Baleares del Instituto Español de Oceanografía, this is the first study that argues the benefits of marine reserves (also known as protected marine areas) in the Mediterranean in relation to the fishing that takes place in these areas.

The study describes the diversity, conditions and characteristics of existing marine reserves in a common hydrographical region and also documents the characteristics of certain types of fishing as well as the challenges associated with their study.

The report also determines if evidence exists of the benefits of protecting the most exploited species of marine life. The creation of marine reserves in Spain, which is the second fishing power in the world, is one of the most important issues that need to be addressed in the near future.

Experts in marine conservation consider that the Spanish initiative to create more marine reserves will be crucial for other countries that want to follow its example and prevent over fishing of limited fish stocks and the danger of extinction that threatens most commercial species of fish.