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January 1999 Vol. 14, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Small Reserve — Big Fish

from the January, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Attention dive resorts: no matter how small a marine reserve you establish, the protection seems to help fish populations — and your business.

At Anse Chastenet Resort in St. Lucia, the hotel and dive operation put up a ring of buoys to keep fishing boats at bay. While scientists had little information about whether such a small preserve would have any effect at all, they were pleased to note that the number of commercially important species (parrot fish, snappers) was more than double that in nearby nonreserve areas. Predatory and herbivorous fishes were also greater in number in the reserve than outside. And the fish aren’t there because of feeding (it’s prohibited) or artificial structures (there are none).

Fish inside the reserve were also substantially larger than those in fishing grounds, and surprisingly, the reserve contained large individuals of species whose scope for movement might have been expected to take them into fishing grounds where they could be caught. Snappers and grunts, scarce along the heavily fished coast, were evident in the reserve.

While such a small reserve cannot benefit all species, it is significant protection for some species — and a real draw to divers.

[Reported in the Journal of the International Society for Coral Reef Studies]

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