Small-Scale Fishers Unaffected Socioeconomically From Displacement From a Marine Protected Area in Hawaii

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.

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