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

Kough, A.S., Gutzler, B.C., Tuttle, J.G., Palma, N., Knowles, L.C., and L. Waterhouse. 2022. Anthropause shows differential influence of tourism and a no-take reserve on the abundance and size of two fished species. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 1– 17.


1. Marine reserves are essential spatial conservation tools that have been shown to work alongside fishery management strategies to provide benefits to ecosystems and communities. Reserves often incentivize local tourism, which can provide the impetus for reserve creation but may have negative impacts on the ecosystem.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic paused global travel and provided an unprecedented opportunity to compare short-term changes in exploited populations, during the reprieve from visitation provided by this ‘anthropause’, with the results of long-term conservation management.
3. Repeated surveys of Caribbean spiny lobster and Nassau grouper were conducted at popular dive and snorkel locations within a Bahamian no-take reserve and surrounding areas during peak visitation prior to travel restrictions and immediately after restrictions were lifted. Repeated survey results were referenced against surveys over a broader area, including another Bahamian Bank, to examine the consistency of effects and how the ease of access for fishers impacted abundance.
4. In the reserve, lobsters were encountered in significantly greater abundances, and significantly greater sizes of both lobster and grouper were observed in repeated surveys. Significantly more grouper were encountered during the repeated survey within the reserve after travel restrictions, but lobster abundances did not change significantly.
5. Over a broader scale, lobster abundance was significantly greater further from population centres. Observed lobster abundance was affected by habitat and inferred fishing pressure, whereas observed grouper abundance was affected by survey depth, effort, and habitat.
6. Marine reserves had clear benefits for both species and likely facilitated an increase in grouper abundance during the anthropause. Lobsters are a sustainably managed stock in The Bahamas, whereas grouper are a threatened species that appear to have benefited from an unplanned fishery restriction. Well-managed marine reserves enhance populations long term and can have additive effects with fisheries management over short timescales.