MPAs have been implemented across the globe to protect marine biodiversity and critical habitats and enhance commercially harvested ﬁsh stocks. Although ecological effects of marine protected areas (MPAs) are well documented, their impacts on the spatial distribution of ﬁshing efforts and ﬁshing communities are poorly understood. MPAs have been shown to enhance ﬁsheries by providing nursery and refuge habitat in which spill-over into commercially fished areas can occur. However, some research has shown that MPAs may have negative effects on fisheries’ revenues. MPAs can affect ﬁshing behavior by reallocating ﬁshing effort to less desirable areas and encourage ﬁshers to aggregate near MPA boundaries. Furthermore, poorly placed MPAs that are introduced when a ﬁshery is not understood can reduce expected profits. Stevenson et al. (2012) investigated how one MPA network in Hawaii altered the spatial distribution of ﬁshing effort, how it impacted perceived ﬁsher socioeconomic well-being and ﬁshing operations, and whether the economic and catch beneﬁts offset costs in the newly established non-MPA ﬁshing areas. Data were collected using social surveys, experimental ﬁshing, and catch reports. Stevenson et al. found that although the MPA network displaced ﬁshing effort, ﬁsher socioeconomic well-being was not affected. —Evelyn Byer
Stevenson, T., Bissot, B., Walsh, W., 2012. Socioeconomic consequences of ﬁshing displacement from marine protected areas in Hawaii. Biological Conservation 160: 50–58.
Stevenson and colleagues in Washington and Hawaii used social surveys, state ﬁshing reports, and experimental ﬁshing to evaluate how the MPA network inﬂuenced ﬁsher socioeconomic well-being and ﬁshing operations, ﬁshing displacement, and estimated spatial-catch revenue relationships. The social survey’s primary focus was on ﬁshers who remained active pre- and post-MPA network implementation in 1999. Fishing activity level was assessed by asking permit holders how often they ﬁshed; any respondents indicating they ﬁshed at least once per month were classiﬁed as active. Survey packets were disseminated using a snowball approach, meaning packets were distributed to people referred by other permit holders, and all selected permit holders received a questionnaire, a letter of purpose, and a self-addressed stamped envelope for returning their completed responses. Five point Likert scale questions were used to evaluate perceived changes in ﬁsher socioeconomic well-being and ﬁshing operations pre- and post-MPA implementation, in which responses ranged from much worse to much better. Fishing reports from 1990 to 2008 were used to examine if the MPA network displaced ﬁshing effort after it was implemented. In 2008, experimental ﬁshing with aquarium ﬁshers was performed at ten sites along West Hawaii’s coast over a 10 day period in November to determine if estimated catch revenues changed as a function of distance from ports of entry as well as MPA boundary versus non-MPA boundary sites. Captured fish were identiﬁed and counted on the boat for each dive. Three dives were performed at each site. Experimental
catch per unit effort (CPUE) was calculated using the ﬁshing time and number of ﬁsh caught per dive. ArcGIS was used to measure the average distance between a given port of entry and ﬁshing sites. Estimated catch revenues were calculated on a per dive basis by multiplying the average annual sale price per species in 2008 by the number of species caught in 2008.
Stevenson et al. found that fishing cost and distance traveled were perceived to have signiﬁcantly increased while economic status was perceived to have slightly improved post-MPA network establishment. All other factors remained unchanged. Stevenson et al. speculated that the reason for an increase in travel costs without a decrease in perceived socioeconomic status is because the fishers expanded their operating range and favorable market factors helped offset potential economic losses. Catch per unit effort and catch revenues were shown to be higher in newly established fishing areas post-MPAs. Results of the experimental fishing showed estimated catch revenues and experimental CPUE increased with distance from ports of entry, which may serve as an incentive for traveling farther. However, it was also found that estimated revenues and fuel expenditures were equal at approximately 60 km round trip distance from ports of entry; after that point fuel expenditures exceeded estimated revenues. Unexpectedly, these small-scale fishers showed little socioeconomic consequences from displacement caused by MPAs, but more empirical studies are needed to understand the effects of MPAs on small-scale fishers in all types of markets.