Dynamic Bioeconomic Models of Marine Reserves when Fishing Damages Habitat

Michael Neubert, Biology
Holly Moeller, Biology

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2016 COI Funded Project

Abstract

Marine fisheries are an important source of food and economic activity for coastal communities.  Managing these fish stocks involves balancing economic priorities—e.g., local employment and profit—with conservation interests to ensure the maintenance of healthy, self-sustaining fish populations.  Habitat-damaging fisheries, in which fishing gear reduces the local ocean's ability to support fish biomass, pose an additional, spatial management challenge.  Marine reserves—areas that are closed to fishing—are a particularly useful management strategy in such cases because they provide unfished refuges for fish stocks.  However, reserves are effective only when their design and implementation are matched to the bioeconomics of the fishery.  Our work uses mathematical models to determine the conditions under which marine reserves are part of an economically optimal (i.e., profit-maximizing) management strategy.  We focus particularly on how the value of marine reserves changes over time by incorporating discounting and habitat recovery.  Because mathematical models are almost invariably used for fish stock assessment and management, our approach contributes to a growing body of literature supporting effective reserve design.