A 25-year marine reserve as proxy for the unfished condition of an exploited species
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KeywordsNo-take marine reserves
In the absence of a historical baseline, long-term no-take marine reserves can provide a reference to the unfished condition in exploited species of limited mobility. This study documents the recovery of the lobster Palinurus elephas within a large Mediterranean no-take marine reserve (MR) and uses it as a baseline to assess stock status in exploited grounds in the region. Lobster indices of density and biomass within the MR continued to increase after 25 years of protection, a period close to the species' lifespan. Catch per unit effort (CPUE) in weight more than doubled from years 10th to 25th without fishing in the reserve while the increase of CPUE in numbers was only 20%. This faster increase in biomass reflected individual growth and spillover of predominantly smaller lobsters to adjacent grounds. A highly depleted status of exploited populations was inferred from the demographic structure and CPUEs, with fishery:MR ratios and reproductive potential indices below 0.05. In the MR ...
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