Are MPAs Working? Assessing MPA Performance in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Monday, August 18, 2014: 1:30 PM
303B (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Laurie Bauer , NOAA/NOS/NCCOS, Silver Spring, MD
Simon Pittman , CSS-Dynamic
Christopher Jeffrey , CSS-Dynamic
Erik Davenport , NOAA/NOS/NCCOS
Chris Caldow , NOAA/NOS/NCCOS
Over the past few decades, the number and biomass of fish on Caribbean coral reefs, particularly grouper, snapper and large-bodied parrotfish, has declined. To better protect coral reef ecosystems and their fishes, a number of marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established, with the expectation that protection will result in a healthier ecosystem and replenished fish populations. It is important to measure and assess the performance of an MPA to help resource managers evaluate management goals and guide future strategic decisions. A decade of survey data from a joint NOAA and NPS coral reef ecosystem monitoring project was used to examine temporal trends in community metrics and key fishery species on coral reefs inside and outside three federally managed reduced or no-take MPAs in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Despite protection, across all three MPAs no positive trends were detected in any of the selected 15 fish metrics, indicating that the MPAs are not producing a measurable positive effect on the abundance of fishery species within its boundary. Additionally, significant declines were detected for several fish species and groups. The results will support adaptive management of the MPAs and highlight the importance of continued monitoring.