project . 2007 - 2008 . Closed

Urgency application: Recovery of benthic invertebrate communities and fishery overspill effects in newly created marine reserves

UK Research and Innovation
Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: NE/E011268/1
Funded under: NERC Funder Contribution: 281,251 GBP
Status: Closed
05 Feb 2007 (Started) 04 Mar 2008 (Ended)

Fishing for marine fish and shellfish can damage the sea-bottom and the animals that live there and it also lowers the abundance of the harvested species. For the use of these marine resources to be sustainable, it is necessary to control fishing activity so that harvested species can breed successfully and to limit damage to fragile species and habitats. Marine reserves, or Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), are one possible management tool that may achieve these two objectives. In August 2006, four areas of the sea in Lyme Bay, England, were designated as a marine reserve. The primary purpose of this closure is to protect sea fans (a type of soft coral) and other fragile bottom animals against damage by scallop dredging. These MPAs may also be favourable for the fishers, as MPAs may promote recovery of the scallop stocks within the reserves. Once the scallops in the reserve has grown large and become abundant, they will produce many larvae that will move to adjacent areas, where they can be captured by fishers. Seabed animals that are immobile, such as corals and scallops, may not be able to breed successfully when they are spaced too far apart, and this may occurs as a result of fishing. For such species protection in marine reserves, which will maintain populations at a high density, may be the most successful method to protect these species. Our ability to test these predictions has been elusive due to a lack of suitably replicated MPAs. At this moment, only very few marine reserves exist in Britain and around the world. Therefore the creation of four marine reserves represents a unique opportunity to study the effect of marine reserves on the abundance and recovery of bottom animals inside and outside the reserve. A study like this has to start directly after the reserve was created. We will follow changes of the abundance and reproduction of four species of bottom animals over several years to quantify recovery from scallop dredging damage. We will also determine the exchange of animals between the reserves and the surrounding areas by calculating the spread from tidal currents and by analysis of the DNA of sea fans and scallops. Our research will indicate if marine reserves are indeed an effective way to protect bottom animals and if they are are positive for fisheries. It will clarify how fast these animals recover from fishing and how many marine reserves are necessary to protect animals with different reproductive strategies.

Data Management Plans