Populations of commercially important species like the red grouper increased in the Tortugas region following the closure of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary's Tortugas Ecological Reserve. (Credit: NOAA) Enlarge

Feb. 4, 2013 — A new NOAA research report finds that both fish populations and commercial and recreational anglers have benefited from "no-take" protections in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The report, "An Integrated Biogeographic Assessment of Reef Fish Populations and Fisheries in Dry Tortugas: Effects of No-take Reserves," is the first to evaluate how the 151-square nautical mile Tortugas Ecological Reserve affects the living marine resources of the region and the people whose livelihoods are connected to them.

The report's analysis of long-term socioeconomic and scientific information found that after the ecological reserve was designated in 2001:

  • Overfished species such as black and red grouper, yellowtail and mutton snapper increased in presence, abundance and size inside the reserve and throughout the region;
  • Annual gatherings of spawning mutton snapper, once thought to be wiped out from overfishing, began to reform inside the Reserve;
  • Commercial catches of reef fish in the region increased, and continue to do so; and
  • No financial losses were experienced by regional commercial or recreational fishers;

"The findings in this report are good news for NOAA management efforts to enhance fisheries and other natural resources in the Florida Keys," said Holly Bamford, Ph. D., NOAA assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service. "The results are equally important in other areas where NOAA science provides support to management decisions that are made to best utilize and protect our natural resources."

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