Area Based Management

What are We Protecting? Fisher Behavior and the Unintended Consequences of Spatial Closures as a Fishery Management Tool

Economists Alan Haynie (Economics & Social Sciences Research (ESSR) program) and Joshua Abbott (Arizona State University) have a forthcoming publication in the journal Ecological Applications that examines the impacts of the red king crab savings area (RKCSA) on the Bering Sea flatfish fishery.

Specifically, the paper examines the winter rock sole and Pacific cod fishery in the years immediatedly following the creation of the RKCSA in 1995. Spatial closures like marine protected areas (MPAs) are prominent tools for ecosystem-based management in fisheries. However, the adaptive behavior of fishermen (the apex predator in the ecosystem) to MPAs may upset the balance of fishing impacts across species.

While ecosystem-based management (EBM) emphasizes the protection of all species in the environment, the weakest stock often dominates management attention. We use data before and after the implementation of the RKCSA to show how closures designed for red king crab protection spurred dramatic increases in Pacific halibut bycatch due to both direct displacement effects and indirect effects from adaptations in fishermen’s targeting behavior. We identify aspects of the ecological and economic context of the fishery that contributed to these surprising behaviors, noting that many multispecies fisheries are likely to share these features.

Our results highlight the need to either anticipate the behavioral adaptations of fishermen across multiple species in reserve design, a form of implementation error, or to design management systems that are robust to these adaptations. Failure to do so may yield patterns of fishing effort and mortality that undermine the broader objectives of multispecies management and potentially alter ecosystems in profound ways.

By Alan Haynie

The Use of Marine Reserves in Fisheries Management

Over the past several years, the National Fisheries Conservation Center has worked with the National MPA Center, NOAA Fisheries, the State of California, several conservation groups, and industry representatives on several projects that examined the interface between the creation of protected areas and fisheries management. By applying tools that were little used in fisheries at the time, such as the scientific consensus conference, decision analysis, and joint fact-finding, as well as cross-jurisdictional case study methods, NFCC provided its audiences and partners information and methods that improved their ability to navigate the complexities of MPA designation and its integration with fishery management.

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Marine Reserves

Further Discussion of the Use of Marine Reserves in Fishery Management


NFCC played a key role for a number of years in the debate about the potential usefulness of marine reserves as a fishery management tool. In addition to facilitating a number of meetings and workshops throughout the west coast, we completed an assessment of the success of MPA designation processes throughout the country that was published by NOAA’s National MPA Center (see it here). These ranged from locally designed and managed MPAs to larger networks of reserves that involved multiple local, state, and federal participants. NFCC then addressed the science underlying the use of reserves in fishery management by sponsoring a consensus conference, modeled on the National Institutes of Health format, that brought together many of the leading scientists in this field and resulted in a concise consensus statement (Click here to readl).