Flounder capture. (Photo: Feeney/sfg.msi.ucsb.edu)
Study explores potential of spatial planning to manage fisheries
Thursday, July 19, 2012, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
Researchers are trying to determine the best ways to use and refine spatial planning including marine protected areas (MPAs) to manage fisheries and other ocean resources.
A new paper published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month describes research conducted by a team headed by University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Marine Science Institute project scientist Andrew Rassweiler.
Rassweiler says that while considerable research has focused on the ability of MPAs to increase fishery returns, the potential for a broader range of spatial management approaches to outperform MPAs has not been explored.
The team wanted to resolve whether a fishery might be more profitable if a manager had access to tools such as zoning (for fishing, energy or recreation) or spatial user rights, which would affect the distribution of fishing effort in more subtle ways.
Bioeconomic models of seven near-shore fisheries in Southern California were studied to find the value of optimized spatial management where fishing distribution is chosen to maximize profits.
The team showed that under the right circumstances, fully optimized spatial management using a blend of management strategies, including MPAs, can substantially increase fishery profits relative to management where the amount of fishing is regulated, but not its spatial distribution.
Strategically placed MPAs can also boost profits substantially compared with non-spatial management strategies. However, these profit increases are only roughly half those achieved from fully optimized spatial management also using other management tools.
Further, MPAs must be placed carefully: the higher profits can only be achieved if the fishery is well-understood and regulations are designed strategically.
"What we've shown is first, that it's really valuable to give managers more tools, and second, that MPAs are a partial, less-nuanced tool that can get about half the profits as the most valuable tool. But a lot of science has to be done to decide exactly which method to use in a real fishery, and more knowledge has to go into setting spatial regulations than non-spatial ones, because a lot of spatial data is needed," said Rassweiler.
"One question we ask but don't really finish answering in this project is: Is the extra effort worth the cost associated with it? Well, it could be if the resulting profits are much higher," he added.
By Natalia Real