Do Marine Protected Areas Save Seychelles Sea Cucumbers?

by Neha Vaingankar

Marine protected areas are a major cause of dispute especially in coastal and island regions like Seychelles, off the western coast of Africa. In recent times, tropical regions all over the world have experienced a huge boom in fishing of holothurians (sea cucumbers). Almost all of the holothurian fisheries are considered fully exploited, in decline, or entirely collapsed. The reason for the high demand is for the holothurian’s medicinal purposes as well as its supposed aphrodisiac qualities. In many tropical coral reef regions, locals rely on these invertebrates for their livelihoods. However, due to the density-dependent reproduction patterns and late maturing of these organisms, holothurians are very vulnerable to over-exploitation. Many MPAs were established in Seychelles 20 years ago that pre-date the wave of heavy exploitation in current times. Cariglia et al. (2013) aims to understand the effectiveness of these MPAs and measure the economic value of these holothurians. Continue reading

Protecting Deepwater Fish Populations in Hawaii

by Katie Huang

Starting in 1998, specific types of marine protected areas (MPAs) called bottomfish restricted fishing areas (BRFAs) were implemented throughout Hawaii to address conservation concerns over deep-sea species. Although much research has been conducted on how MPAs benefit shallow reef fish populations, less is known about how protection affects deepwater ecosystems. Sackett et al. (2014) studied four BRFAs of differing ages to determine whether relative abundance, mean length, and species richness of seven commonly exploited species varied when compared to unprotected regions. The authors took video surveys along the deep sea floor in both types of areas and counted the number and type of fish in each. They found that mean fish length Continue reading

Sea Cucumbers Going Down in the Seychelles: Will MPAs Help?

Over the last century, increasing demand for marine invertebrates has led to overexploitation by fisheries. As a result, conservation of sea cucumbers, which play critical ecological roles as nutrient recyclers and filter feeders, is becoming increasingly important. Although there are few marine protected areas (MPAs) explicitly designed to protect sea cucumbers, protective regions already established for other species can still help populations recover. To determine the effects of protection on sea cucumber populations, Cariglia et al. (2013) examined a network of long-established MPAs in the Seychelles islands. They conducted scuba studies to count and identify various species in sites both inside and outside the MPAs and grouped them by economic worth. After performing statistical analyses, they found that 76% of all observed individuals were found within the MPAs and that within protected areas, there were both higher species abundance and a greater probability of encountering economically valuable species. The authors also analyzed habitat types and found that species preferred different types depending on whether they were in fished or unfished areas. Although the Seychelles MPAs were not specifically designed to protect sea cucumbers, they were nevertheless effective in facilitating recovery. —Posted by Katie Huang

Cariglia N., Wilson S.K., Graham N.A.J., Fisher R., Robinson J., Aumeeruddy R., Quatre R., Polunin N.V.C., 2013. Sea cucumbers in the Seychelles: effects of marine protected areas on high-value species. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 23, 418–428.

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