Marine protected areas – a review of their potential effects on lobster population size & structure and fisheries management

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Marine protected areas (MPAs) have been proven to protect sessile organisms and territorial commercial fish successfully. These areas may also protect populations of commercial lobster species, many of which are both nomadic and resident. The potential effects on lobster ecology and management have been studied in several MPAs established for given species of lobsters or that include lobsters in their protected zones, including commercial clawed, spiny, and slipper lobsters. Some studies have shown the positive effects on lobsters within MPAs, such as increased abundance, density, biomass, catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE), and size. These outcomes may also benefit lobster fisheries because the MPAs can supply propagules, juveniles, and adults via the “spillover” process to unprotected areas. Some MPAs have even demonstrated that reduced fishing areas from MPA designation significantly increase total catch after several years of protection. Such MPAs can also benefit other industries, such as marine tourism and fisheries of other commercial species. Some reserves fail to show positive effects, perhaps due to factors such as MPAs that are small relative to the home ranges of lobster species, location, size, shape, protection of lobster predators, ineffective policing of illegal fisheries, and “edge effects”. Factors for successful MPAs include being a “no-take” zone, adequate enforcement, size, shape, and age of the reserves. Additional factors are proper MPA location for larval recruitment, suitable habitats, absence of anthropogenic disturbance, and full participation of the affected community, including the fisheries industry. Controlled before-and-after studies that explore the biological and fishery impacts of MPAs on surrounding fisheries are scarce but needed to assess the value of MPAs in fishery management. In view of dwindling of some lobster populations and possible conflicts between conservation scientists and fishermen, long-range studies of lobster populations inside and outside of MPAs and engaging all stakeholders are imperative.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107025
JournalFisheries Research
StatePublished - Jul 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier B.V.


  • Conservation
  • Edge effect
  • Fishery
  • No-take zone
  • Spillover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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