Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Symposium Abstract: Impacts of Marine Reserves: How Fishermen Behavior Matters

J. E. Wilen

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569605.ch138

By a wide margin, most of what we think we know about the impacts of marine reserves on fisheries has been derived by analytical and simulation modeling rather than with hard empirical evidence. Most of that analytical modeling, in turn, has been done by biologists, focusing on aspects of the system with which they are most familiar, namely biological mechanisms. The most important findings derived from biological modeling of marine reserves are that dispersal mechanisms are critical to the kinds and magnitudes of impacts of closed areas. These findings have largely been derived from models that make simplifying assumptions about fishing mortality. This paper argues that the spatial distribution of fishing mortality is as important as biological dispersal mechanisms to the ultimate impact of reserves. Moreover, the spatial distribution of fishing effort is determined by economically motivated decisions not typically considered by biological modelers. We predict, using data from the Northern California red sea urchin fishery, how the distribution of effort is likely to change in response to closed areas, and how that behavioral response is important to the ultimate impacts of closed areas. We argue that failure to account for the economic determinants of fishing effort bias conclusions about reserves, and we discuss the nature of those biases.