Designing MPAs for food security in open-access fisheries

Cabral, Reniel B., Halpern, Benjamin S., Lester, Sarah E., White, Crow, Gaines, Steven D., and Costello, Christopher (2019) Designing MPAs for food security in open-access fisheries. Scientific Reports, 9. 8033.

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Food security remains a principal challenge in the developing tropics where communities rely heavily on marine-based protein. While some improvements in fisheries management have been made in these regions, a large fraction of coastal fisheries remain unmanaged, mismanaged, or use only crude input controls. These quasi-open-access conditions often lead to severe overfishing, depleted stocks, and compromised food security. A possible fishery management approach in these institution-poor settings is to implement fully protected marine protected areas (MPAs). Although the primary push for MPAs has been to solve the conservation problems that arise from mismanagement, MPAs can also benefit fisheries beyond their borders. The literature has not completely characterized how to design MPAs under diverse ecological and economic conditions when food security is the objective. We integrated four key biological and economic variables (i.e., fish population growth rate, fish mobility, fish price, and fishing cost) as well as an important aspect of reserve design (MPA size) into a general model and determined their combined influence on food security when MPAs are implemented in an open-access setting. We explicitly modeled open-access conditions that account for the behavioral response of fishers to the MPA; this approach is distinct from much of the literature that focuses on assumptions of “scorched earth” (i.e., severe over-fishing), optimized management, or an arbitrarily defined fishing mortality outside the MPA’s boundaries. We found that the MPA size that optimizes catch depends strongly on economic variables. Large MPAs optimize catch for species heavily harvested for their high value and/or low harvesting cost, while small MPAs or no closure are best for species lightly harvested for their low value and high harvesting cost. Contrary to previous theoretical expectations, both high and low mobility species are expected to experience conservation benefits from protection, although, as shown previously, greater conservation benefits are expected for low mobility species. Food security benefits from MPAs can be obtained from species of any mobility. Results deliver both qualitative insights and quantitative guidance for designing MPAs for food security in open-access fisheries.

Item ID: 72024
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2022 00:36
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3005 Fisheries sciences > 300505 Fisheries management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 10 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 1003 Fisheries - wild caught > 100305 Wild caught fin fish (excl. tuna) @ 100%
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