Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New York
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Sethi SA, Hilborn R. (2008) Interactions between poaching and management policy affect marine reserves as conservation tools. Biological Conservation.141:506-16. DOI:


To explore the effects of poaching within marine reserve boundaries under three different management policies this analysis uses a simple age-structured reserve model based on yield maximization or reproductive thresholds of Black rockfish (Sebastes melanops). Departures from the traditional assumptions of full compliance to reserve boundaries alter the conclusions of prior modeling work that demonstrate yield equivalence to no-reserve effort control management and augmented reproductive benefits when small reserves are implemented. By degrading the recruitment subsidization effect to nonreserve areas from protected reserve populations, poaching resulted in negative externalities for compliant fishermen in open areas in terms of yield and degraded the reproductive output and age-structure of the system. All three policies required effort reduction in open areas as a response to poaching in reserves. The strength of the impacts from poaching varied with policy choice and harvest intensity in the reserve, where at the highest level of poaching modeled here (15% annual exploitation rate of the vulnerable reserve population) biological and fishery benefits of implementing reserves were totally negated. Under the assumptions of this model, a policy managing for a reproductive threshold that excludes the reserve population is the precautionary choice if poaching is likely. The results of this exercise emphasize the importance of garnering compliance to reserve boundaries from resource-users for spatial closures to be successful ocean management tools.