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Long-term effectiveness of a multi-use marine protected area on reef
ﬁsh assemblages and ﬁsheries landings
Alexis N. Rife
, Octavio Aburto-Oropeza
, Philip A. Hastings
, Brad Erisman
, Ford Ballantyne
, Enric Sala
, Leah Gerber
Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA 92093-0202, USA
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Kansas University, Lawrence, KS 66047, USA
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
Marine Bioeconomics, Tampa, FL 22607, USA
National Geographic Society, Washington, DC 20036, USA
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), 17300 Blanes, Spain
Received 13 May 2012
Received in revised form
19 December 2012
Accepted 24 December 2012
Marine protected area
Reef ﬁsh assemblages
Gulf of California
The Loreto Bay National Park (LBNP) is a large, multi-use marine protected area in the Gulf of California,
Mexico, where several types of small-scale commercial and recreational ﬁshing are allowed, but where
less than 1% of the park is totally protected from ﬁshing. The LBNP was created in 1996; its management
plan was completed in 2000, but it was not effectively implemented and enforced until 2003. Between
1998 and 2010, we monitored reef ﬁsh populations annually at several reefs inside and outside the LBNP
to measure the effects of the park on ﬁsh assemblages. We also evaluated reported ﬁsheries landings
within the LBNP for the same time series. Our results show that reef ﬁsh biomass increased signiﬁcantly
after protection at a small no-take site at LBNP relative to the rest of the park. However, the multi-use
part of LBNP where ﬁshing is allowed (99% of its surface) has had no measurable effect on reef ﬁsh
biomass relative to open access sites outside the park boundaries. Reported ﬁsheries landings have
decreased within the park while increasing in nearby unprotected areas. Although the current partial
protection management regime has not allowed for reef ﬁsh populations to recover despite 15 years as a
“protected area,”we conclude that LBNP’s regulations and management have maintained the conditions
of the ecosystem that existed when the park was established. These results suggest that community
livelihoods have been sustained, but a re-evaluation of the multi-use management strategy, particularly
the creation of larger no-take zones and better enforcement, is needed to improve the reef ﬁsh pop-
ulations in the park in order to ensure sustainable ﬁsheries far into the future. These recommendations
can be applied to all multi-use MPAs in Mexico where ecosystem recovery is not occurring despite
maintenance of ﬁsh stocks.
Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
In response to the perceived failure of traditional, species-
speciﬁc management tools to restore most ﬁsheries, marine pro-
tected areas (MPAs) have been established as a means to conserve
biodiversity and help sustain ﬁsheries (Pikitch et al., 2004) within
the context of ecosystem-based management (Halpern et al., 2010).
The term “marine protected area”encompasses many differing
management schemes and a gradient of protection levels that may
restrict all extractive practices (“no-take marine reserves”), limit
gear types, or restrict ﬁshing temporally or via zonation (Ward
et al., 2001). Marine reserves need to be used as a complement to
ﬁsheries management, particularly in developing countries where
other institutionalized regulations may not exist. Beneﬁts of marine
reserves may be dampened in multi-use MPAs that lack sufﬁcient
no-take area and proper zonation.
MPAs have been established throughout Mexico in the last 15
years, including the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortés), a global ma-
rine biodiversity hotspot (Roberts et al., 2002) that has been of
particular focus by conservation organizations and scientiﬁc
groups, and gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2005. The
majority of these MPAs are multi-use, with typically small no-take
areas surrounded by “buffer”zones where ﬁshing effort and/
or certain gear types are limited or restricted. Despite the
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (A.N. Rife).
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Journal of Environmental Management 117 (2013) 276e283
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establishment of several MPAs in the Gulf of California, the efﬁcacy
of these multi-use MPAs as both conservation and ﬁshery man-
agement tools has seldom been assessed (but see Cudney-Bueno
et al., 2009;Espinoza-Tenorio et al., 2010). There is concern that
these MPAs may suffer from the “paper park”syndrome, where
MPAs are established, but without the proper regulations, man-
agement plan, and resources to be effective in allowing for ﬁsh
stock recovery (a common MPA objective). Rather, these areas only
maintain the status quo of degraded ecosystems with no or very
low beneﬁts for the community and local ﬁsheries.
The Gulf of California supports a large ﬁshing community, pro-
ducing 50e70% of Mexico’s annual catch (Carvajal et al., 2004;Ulloa
et al., 2006), of which 15% is captured by small-scale ﬁshers
(SEMARNAT, 2006;Ulloa et al., 2006). Fisheries management in
Mexico is largely permit-based, limiting ﬁshing effort by permitting
skiffs (pangas) to harvest a number of target species (SAGARPA,
2007). For the majority of species, no quotas exist and manage-
ment is dependent on this limited entry system. This strategy of
a moratorium on entry into the ﬁshery for preserving ﬁsh stocks
has been recognized as an inefﬁcient management measure as it
does not create the right incentives to reduce ﬁshing effort
(Townsend, 1990;Wilen, 1988). Furthermore, it has generally been
unsuccessful in maintaining ﬁsheries stocks (CONAPESCA, 2010)
and has been deemed to be unsustainable in the Gulf of California
(Sala et al., 2004). Cinti et al. (2010) argue that this permit-based
system does not provide the incentives for a sustainable ﬁshery
in Mexico, and MPAs may be one way to effectively ﬁll this gap.
We used Loreto Bay National Park (LBNP) as a case study for the
effectiveness of a multi-use MPA in meeting both its objectives
(detailed below) and in allowing for ﬁsh stock recovery. The total
no-take area is less than 1% of the park, and while prohibiting
industrial-scale ﬁshing, the park allows small-scale ﬁsheries to
operate within its borders. The stated goal of the park is to preserve
ﬁsh biomass in order to maintain ﬁsheries. Here, we assess whether
the LBNP has met its objectives using a 13-year time series of data
on ﬁsh abundance in multiple sites inside and outside the park,
from before to after effective protection, and ﬁsheries catch
2. Material and methods
2.1. Study site
LBNP was decreed in 1996; its management plan was ﬁnished in
2000, published in 2002, and implemented in 2003. LBNP was
created as a result of stakeholder requests to exclude shrimp
trawlers and purse seiners from local ﬁshing grounds (CONANP,
2000). Its management plan was created through an open process
that included input from user groups. The park encompasses
and is zoned into different areas that allow various ac-
tivities and degrees of extraction, with 1.27 km
as no-take, cen-
tered around two shallow seamounts (CONANP, 2003,2000)
(Fig. 1). Although only 0.07% of the park is no-take, some gear re-
strictions do exist (CONANP, 2003,2000): beginning in 2000, the
presence of industrial-scale boats (trawlers and purse seiners) was
prohibited; the use of gillnets is prohibited half of the year; har-
pooning is banned; and north of Montserrat Island, only hook-and-
line ﬁshing is permitted (Fig. 1). LBNP adjoins several towns,
Fig. 1. Location of study sites. Loreto Bay National Park boundary depicted by the dotted line. Circles are MPA sites. Inverted triangles indicate no-take and restricted gear sites
within the MPA (restricted sites). Open access (unprotected) sites are depicted by squares.
A.N. Rife et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 117 (2013) 276e283 277
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including Loreto, with a population of approximately 15,000 peo-
ple. About 10% of the total population of these communities is
involved in commercial ﬁsheries as their primary livelihood
Stated objectives of the park include “to preserve renewable and
nonrenewable natural resources”and “restore critical habitats,
promoting the social development of the communities within the
region”(CONANP, 2000). Speciﬁcally, the park seeks to establish
guidelines to orient the development of the many activities that
occur within the park, including commercial ﬁshing, sport ﬁshing,
and other tourism activities (e.g., bird and whale watching, recre-
ational diving) while ensuring that these activities are compatible
with conservation and maintain community livelihoods. An
assessment of the park must take into account these objectives:
a preservation of environmental conditions and sustainable
In general, the status of ﬁsh populations and the spatial distri-
bution of ﬁshing effort within the LBNP boundaries are not well
known. The Gulf of California is impacted by the El Niño Southern
Oscillation, which has been shown to affect ﬁsh assemblages and
ﬁsheries (Aburto-Oropeza et al., 2007;Sala et al., 2003) and further
complicates management and recovery efforts. The park has, in
recent years, been going through the evaluation and revision pro-
cess of its management plan, including an increase in the no-take
areas within the LBNP.
2.2. Biological monitoring
We surveyed 22 sites between Loreto and La Paz, in Baja Cali-
fornia Sur (Fig. 1) annually in AugusteSeptember from 1998 to
2010. All research was conducted under research permits (DAPA/2/
110808/1990, DGOPA/07191/060907/3623, DGOPA/05356/140710/
3457, SGPA/DGVS/06821/08, and DAN-03651), and LBNP managers
were informed prior to conducting surveys. Fourteen of the survey
sites lie within the LBNP, and eight open access sites south of the
park were used as controls. All sites are in shallow, rocky reef
habitats. Monitoring sites within the LBNP are located around the
four main islands within the park eCoronado, Carmen, Montserrat,
and Danzante. One of the LBNP sites is located within the current
no-take zone and one within the restricted gear use area (Fig. 1).
The restricted gear use site was not surveyed in 2003 due to un-
favorable ambient conditions.
Surveys at each site involved underwater visual ﬁsh surveys
censuses using SCUBA. Censuses followed standard belt transect
methodology described in previous studies (Aburto-Oropeza et al.,
2011;Sala et al., 2002), with each transect covering an area of
(50 m long 5 m wide). Up to seven transects were sur-
veyed per site, with divers swimming along an isobath of reef and
making two passes along the same transect. Divers identiﬁed and
counted all actively swimming ﬁshes on the ﬁrst path and seden-
tary, benthic, or territorial ﬁshes on the second to account for
observer effects and estimated their total length within 5 cm. Fishes
that passed divers from behind were omitted to avoid counting the
same ﬁsh multiple times. The censuses focused on reef ﬁshes, those
that use the hard substrata for protection, shelter, feeding, or
reproduction (Thomson et al., 2000). However, we also included
the epipelagic species that regularly visit reefs in search of food,
cleaning services, and reproduction (Mascareñas-Osorio et al.,
2011). We concentrated our efforts on conspicuous ﬁshes species
rather than cryptobenthic species, small ﬁshes of less than 5 cm in
length that are behaviorally cryptic and difﬁcult to quantify by vi-
sual surveys due to their close association with the substratum. To
calculate ﬁsh biomass we used lengtheweight allometries from
Fishbase (Froese and Pauly, 2011). The surveyors are experienced at
and trained in visually surveying ﬁsh assemblages and estimating
ﬁsh lengths accurately (Aburto-Oropeza and Balart, 2001;Sala
et al., 2002).
Detecting the impact of an MPA on ﬁsh assemblages may not be
as straightforward as it appears. The commonly used single com-
parison of an MPA with nearby unprotected sites after the creation
of the MPA may be confounded by spatial differences in ﬁsh bio-
mass that are independent of reserve effects (Guidetti, 2002). Fur-
thermore, these snapshot comparisons do not allow us to
determine the rate of recovery of ﬁsh assemblages (Russ et al.,
2005). An additional problem is the intrinsic variability in ﬁsh
populations. In order to detect changes in ﬁsh biomass resulting
from MPA establishment, these changes must be greater than
natural variability. The optimal method to evaluate the efﬁcacy of
an MPA is to survey several sites in the MPA and multiple unpro-
tected sites nearby and/or in the same biogeographic area, several
times before and after the creation of the MPA. We used this design,
called a Beyond-BACI (Before-After Control-Impact) (Underwood,
1992,1994), to test the effect of the MPA on total ﬁsh biomass
and the biomass of major ﬁsh trophic groups. The eight open access
sites outside the park were the “control”sites and the 14 sites
within the MPA were the “impact”sites. The impact sites are
expected to show a positive temporal change in ﬁsh biomass fol-
lowing the implementation of management. Monitoring began in
1998, which is technically after the park was decreed; however, the
management plan was not created until 2000 and not published in
the Ofﬁcial Gazette of the Mexican Federation until January of 2003
and thus not ofﬁcial until 2003. Therefore, we assume that no
signiﬁcant change in ﬁshers’behavior occurred until 2003, leaving
1998e2002 as ﬁve years of “before”and 2003e2010 as eight years
of “after”treatment. In 2007, some of the open access, control sites
were decreed as part of a new MPA (Espiritu Santo Archipelago
National Park). As no management plan has been published or
implemented, these sites are still considered open access in our
We ﬁrst compared the no-take area and the line ﬁshing-only
area within LBNP. There were no statistically signiﬁcant differ-
ences in ﬁsh biomass between the two sites from before to after
protection (see Results). Hence we included these two sites in
a‘restricted’protection category and compared them with the rest
of sites within LBNP. This comparison was intended to test whether
the greater protection north of Montserrat has produced an effect
on ﬁsh populations that is different from the rest of the parkwhere
ﬁshing is less restricted. There were statistically signiﬁcant differ-
ences in ﬁsh biomass between these two different levels of pro-
tection (restricted and rest of park) within LBNP (see Results).
Therefore we decided to compare all sites within the park (except
the restricted area) with the unprotected areas nearby in order to
test any effect of the multi-use park as compared to open access
We used asymmetrical analysis of variance (ANOVA) to test for
two different types of impact: change in mean biomass after pro-
tection and change in temporal variance (e.g., Currie and Small,
2005;Francini-Filho and Moura, 2008;Skilleter et al., 2006). Pro-
tection can be considered a “press disturbance”since its effects are
continuous and can cause a sustained increase in mean ﬁsh bio-
mass. In addition, protection may dampen temporal variance in ﬁsh
abundance relative to unprotected areas (e.g., Francour, 1994). Both
effects can be detected as signiﬁcant interactions. Increased bio-
mass after protection would cause an increased interaction
between the difference from impacted to control locations before,
compared with after, protection (B IinTables 1 and 2)
(Underwood, 1992,1994). An effect on temporal variance can be
detected as a signiﬁcant interaction between the impacted and
control locations in their temporal changes after the disturbance
(T(Aft) IinTables 1 and 2)(Underwood, 1992). Since the same
A.N. Rife et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 117 (2013) 276e283278
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sites were monitored each year, reefs were nested within the
control-impact treatment and randomized. To fulﬁll assumptions of
normality and heteroscedascity, data on ﬁsh biomass were ln-
2.3. CONAPESCA catch data
We analyzed the reported ﬁsheries catch databases from 1999 to
2009 from the Loreto and La Paz CONAPESCA ofﬁces. Generally,
ﬁshers ﬁshing at our control sites report to the La Paz ofﬁce, while
ﬁshers in the LBNP and outside the park near Loreto report to the
Loreto ofﬁce. Based on the reported capture sites, we determined if
the catch came from the MPA or open access area, and used these
location categories to compare catch trends under the two treat-
ments as above (2.2). We eliminated the few capture sites whose
location we could not determine as well as those outside the im-
mediate area around LBNP in order to accurately measure and
distinguish between catch in the MPA and open access treatment.
CONAPESCA ﬁsheries statistics are too limited to evaluate the
status of individual ﬁsh stocks for multiple reasons including lack of
data on or assessment of ﬁshing effort, lack of adequate spatial
resolution, misidentiﬁcation and lumping of species, and lack of
data on ﬁsh sizes (Aburto-Oropeza et al., 2006). However, these
databases have been used to identify general catch trends for
“species groups”harvested in the Gulf of California (Erisman et al.,
We eliminated all inconclusive and uncertain catch data (e.g.,
labeled as “other”) within the database, as well as reports for
ornamental and aquarium ﬁshes. It is difﬁcult to measure the level
of ﬁshing conducted by outsiders from the region and not reported
in the local CONAPESCA ofﬁce, so we did not attempt to account for
this in the analysis. Reported catches were divided into family
groups and species groupings (e.g., cabrillas and groupers as Ser-
ranidae and Epinephelidae) but identiﬁed to the species level when
possible, which allowed us to determine the trophic groups in the
catch. We used an ANCOVA model to test for differences in catch
trends between the MPA and open access areas.
3.1. Biological monitoring data
We studied if the data for the sites with ﬁshing restrictions (no-
take site, ﬁshing-line only site) could be pooled into a single
“restricted ﬁshing”category. We tested for normality (Shapiroe
Wilks test) of the Before, After, and combined samples for each
site, and we compared the variances (Levene test) and means
(Welch two-sample t-test) between the two Before and the two
After samples (Romeu, 2004). The Before, After, and combined
samples did not deviate statistically from normality (No-take
Before: W¼0.899, p¼0.409; Fishing-line Before: W¼0.920,
p¼0.530; No-take combined: W¼0.975, p¼0.932. No-take After:
W¼0.858, p¼0.145; Fishing-line After: W¼0.899, p¼0.327;
Fishing-line combined: W¼0.0.911; p¼0.165). In addition, there
were no statistically signiﬁcant differences in the variances (Before:
L¼0.010, p¼0.919; After: L¼1.741, p¼0.212) and means (Before:
t¼1.439, p¼0.188; After: t¼0.186, p¼0.858), so we pooled the
data for the two sites in a single “restricted area”category.
Total ﬁsh biomass in the restricted area of LBNP was greater than
in the other sites within LBNP from before to after the imple-
mentation of the management plan in 2003 (ANOVA, p<0.001),
despite the high degree of variability in biomass over time in the
restricted zones (Table 1,Fig. 2). This difference was explained by
the signiﬁcantly greater abundance of herbivorous ﬁshes (p<0.05)
and zooplanktivorous ﬁshes (p<0.001) (mostly Abudefdful tro-
schelli) in the restricted sites relative to other sites in the park.
There were no statistically signiﬁcant differences in biomass of
apex predators and carnivores between the restricted sites and the
rest of the park from before to after 2003. Temporal variance among
zones in the park did not change signiﬁcantly before and after 2003
(Table 1,Fig. 2).
There was no statistically signiﬁcant difference in total ﬁsh
biomass and the biomass of ﬁsh trophic groups from before to after
protection between the MPA (12 sites within LBNP, not including
the restricted area sites) and open access sites (Table 2,Fig. 2).
Temporal variance between the park and unprotected areas nearby
did not change signiﬁcantly before and after 2003. In both settings,
zooplanktivores and herbivores compromised approximately 70%
of the total biomass while piscivores and carnivores constituted the
remaining 30% (Fig. 2).
3.2. CONAPESCA catch data
The top species groups caught in the LBNP varied in order of
importance from year to year, but always included snappers (Lut-
janidae), cabrillas and groupers (Serranidae and Epinephelidae),
tileﬁsh (Malacanthidae), and sharks and rays (not identiﬁed to the
family level in the CONAPESCA reports). Herbivores and zoo-
planktivores made up less than 10% of the total catch combined.
Piscivores and carnivores heavily dominated the catch. Mean
Beyond-BACI analysis to detect the effects of the Loreto Bay National Park on ﬁsh populations. Comparison between the restricted area [a no-take site and a site where only
hook-and-line is permitted (MPA1)]and 12 other sites in the park where both line and nets are allowed (MPA2). The degrees of freedom and the Mean Square are shown only
for the residual of the B I test.
Source of variation df Total biomass Top predators Carnivores Zooplanktivores Herbivores
MS FMS FMS FMS FMS F
Year ¼T 12 0.024 0.005 0.014 0.011 0.002
Before vs. After ¼B 1 0.001 0.001 0.001 0.002 0.001
Among locations ¼L 13 0.024 0.015 0.013 0.033 0.017
MPA1 vs. MPA2 ¼I 1 0.001 0.008 0.006 0.016 0.001
Among MPA2 ¼C 11 0.028 0.017 0.014 0.036 0.020
TI 11 0.008 1.340 0.002 0.597 0.001 0.428 0.005 0.726 0.005 1.562
BL 13 0.009 0.002 0.001 0.009 0.005
BI108.374** 0.001 0.381 0.001 0.034 0.032 5.026* 0.035 10.666**
BC 11 0.004 0.657 0.002 0.919 0.001 0.351 0.006 1.322 0.002 1.128
T(Aft) L 88 0.005 0.002 0.003 0.004 0.002
T(Aft) I 6 0.004 0.730 0.002 0.847 0.002 0.632 0.002 0.265 0.003 0.874
T(Aft) C 76 0.005 0.002 0.003 0.004 0.002
Residual (B I) 174 0.007 0.003 0.004 0.006 0.003
Signiﬁcant interaction terms are in bold. *p<0.05, **p<0.001.
A.N. Rife et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 117 (2013) 276e283 279
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annual landing per year by trophic group, common group, and
family are shown in Table 3. Reported landings for each year of data
and including Spanish common and species names are included in
Supporting information (S1). Overall reported catch in the open
access areas was larger, as expected given the industrial-scale
ﬁshing effort, and increased over time relative to catch in the
LBNP (ANCOVA, F¼50.84, p<0.001), as was the case for catch of
carnivorous ﬁshes (F¼16.12, p¼0.001) (Fig. 3).
The trophic group distribution of ﬁshes at LBNP is representative
of a system with a high level of human impact (Sandin et al., 2008).
Zooplanktivores and herbivores make up the bulk of the biomass
within LBNP and do not reﬂect the apex predator-dominated
structure of a healthy reef system (DeMartini et al., 2008). This
has been the situation in LBNP since the park was ﬁrst established
and has not changed in 13 years of monitoring. Total ﬁsh biomass
and biomass of trophic levels targeted by commercial ﬁsheries have
not increased signiﬁcantly in the LBNP after protection relative to
open access, unprotected areas nearby. Only the biomass of her-
bivorous and planktivorous ﬁshes increased in the restricted areas
of LBNP relative to the rest of the park, although it is unclear
whether this increase was due to protection. Despite the lack of
recovery, our temporal monitoring shows that biomass did not
decrease signiﬁcantly over time for reef ﬁshes within LBNP. Catch of
higher trophic groups may indicate a higher presence than our
monitoring data suggest, but we doubt that this is the case as
ﬁshers speciﬁcally target these groups, our monitoring sites are
located in piscivore and carnivore habitat, and we regularly see
these ﬁshes while monitoring in other sites (e.g., Cabo Pulmo,
Aburto-Oropeza et al., 2011). While catch has fallen, in numerous
conversations with ﬁshers, managers, and residents, loss of liveli-
hood was never expressed as a concern (A. Rife unpublished data).
Beyond-BACI analysis to detect the effects of the Loreto Bay National Park on ﬁsh populations. Comparison between 12 sites in the park where both line and nets are allowed
(MPA2), and unprotected areas nearby. The degrees of freedom and the Mean Square are shown only for the residual of the B I test.
Source of variation df Total biomass Top predators Carnivores Zooplanktivores Herbivores
MS FMS FMS FMS FMS F
Year ¼T 12 0.031 2.141 0.014 0.012 0.004
Before vs. After ¼B 1 0.057 0.004 0.000 0.054 0.010
Among locations ¼L 21 0.019 0.034 0.012 0.032 0.012
MPA2 vs. unprotected ¼I 1 0.001 0.080 0.017 0.019 0.001
Among unprotected ¼C 7 0.012 0.060 0.008 0.032 0.005
TI 12 0.009 1.367 0.005 0.996 0.003 0.920 0.006 0.954 0.003 1.030
BL 19 0.005 0.003 0.002 0.006 0.002
BI (a) 1 0 2.805 0.005 1.028 0.002 0.406 0.014 2.199 0.001 0.368
BC 7 0.005 0.559 0.004 0.996 0.003 0.729 0.005 1.018 0.002 0.498
T(Aft) L 130 0.007 0.003 0.003 0.004 0.003
T(Aft) I (b) 7 0.011 1.435 0.004 0.844 0.003 0.825 0.006 0.882 0.002 0.513
T(Aft) C (b) 47 0.009 0.004 0.004 0.004 0.003
Residual (B I) 249 0.008 0.004 0.002 0.015 0.001
No statistically signiﬁcant statistical relationships were found, meaning that pwas not <0.05.
Fig. 2. Reef ﬁsh biomass (tonnes ha
, mean S.E.) in the Loreto Bay Marine Park and adjacent areas from 1998 to 2010. Bars indicate standard error.
A.N. Rife et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 117 (2013) 276e283280
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The Beyond-BACI analysis is a rigorous way to compare an MPA
with adjacent unprotected sites in an area with interannual envi-
ronmental changes (Underwood, 1992,1994). Our results indicate
that some reef sites had signiﬁcantly higher biomass than others,
but this was accounted for because the Beyond-BACI analysis tests
for differences from before to after protection between levels of
protection, regardless of the absolute biomass at each site.
In other locales it has been shown that ﬁsh biomass can increase
signiﬁcantly in no-take reserves within a few years of implementa-
tion (Halpern and Warner, 2002;Lester et al., 2009), signiﬁcantly so
within a decade (McClanahan et al., 2007). This is not the case in
MPAswhich suffer from paper park syndrome (e.g.,Rogers and Beets,
2001). Based on evidence from 155 no-take reserves worldwide
(Lester et al., 2009;Micheli et al., 2004), we would expect target
species (chieﬂyapex predators and carnivores) to accountfor most of
the ﬁsh biomass increase in reserves. The sergeant major, A. troschelli,
which wasthe major contributor toﬁsh biomass at the restricted area
of LBNP, is not a ﬁshery target. This indicates that the stronger reg-
ulations at these siteshave not been effectivein allowing for recovery
of commercially important apex predators and carnivores. This may
be due to the small size of these no-take areas (Halpern, 2003;
Vandeperre et al., 2010) which are insufﬁcient to affect ﬁsh biomass
throughout the MPA or the ineffective enforcement of regulations. In
any case,the only positive change in ﬁsh biomassat LBNP occurred in
the restricted site. In Cabo Pulmo National Park, the only well-
enforced no-take reserve in the Gulf of California, ﬁsh biomass
increased 460% within a decade and was dominated by apex pred-
ators (Aburto-Oropeza et al., 2011). This is a stark contrast with LBNP,
where the partial protection management scheme has not been
effective in allowing the recovery of ﬁsh assemblages in the park.
Average ﬁsheries landings per year in LBNP by trophic group, common group, and
family (metric tons). Supporting Information (S1) includes Spanish common and
species names as well as per year landing.
Trophic group Common
Family Mean total
Piscivore 218.85 113.71
Barracudas Sphyraenidae 0.14 0.45
Halibuts Paralichthyidae 1.54 1.30
Jacks Carangidae 41.69 25.30
Palometas Carangidae 1.42 1.42
Nematistiidae 0.02 0.07
Sierras Scombridae 7.17 6.01
Snappers Lutjanidae 110.64 43.92
Snooks Centropomidae 0.17 0.30
Carnivore 162.39 50.36
Corvinas Sciaenidae 1.19 2.10
Croakers Sciaenidae 0.03 0.06
Cusk eels Ophidiidae 2.92 5.00
Goatﬁshes Mullidae 0.07 0.23
Grunts Haemulidae 12.38 6.03
Guitarﬁshes Rhinobatidae 0.92 1.03
Jacks Carangidae 0.05 0.12
Mackerels Scombridae 3.07 2.16
Mojarras Gerreidae 9.68 5.17
Porgies Sparidae 2.23 2.37
Pufferﬁshes Tetraodontidae 0.13 0.31
Rays Rajiformes 13.01 9.76
Rockﬁshes Sebastidae 3.98 3.86
Scads Carangidae 0.00 0.01
Tileﬁshes Malacanthidae 30.53 11.74
Triggerﬁshes Balistidae 14.81 6.50
Wrasses Labridae 6.84 6.87
Zooplanktivore 4.96 6.09
Groupers Epinephelidae 3.61 6.20
Sardines Engraulidae 0.82 0.99
Pampanos Carangidae 0.53 0.56
Herbivore 22.61 16.49
Chubs Kyphosidae 0.16 0.31
Mullets Mugilidae 0.14 0.45
Parrotﬁshes Scaridae 22.31 15.73
Fig. 3. Catch (metric tonnes) of (a) Total (b) Piscivore (c) Carnivore in MPA (open
circles) and open access sites (closed circles). Lines depict linear regression used in
A.N. Rife et al. / Journal of Environmental Management 117 (2013) 276e283 281
Author's personal copy
The decline in catch may be evidence of commercial ﬁshers
switching to other livelihoods. The CONAPESCA database does not
include catches from recreational ﬁsheries, which are generally not
monitored. Many former commercial ﬁshers have switched to
providing sport-ﬁshing services to tourists as it is seen as a more
lucrative and steady income (anonymous personal communica-
tion). Recreational ﬁshing has increased more than 400% within the
LBNP since its creation (López-Sagástegui, 2006). As ﬁshers switch,
they continue to catch higher trophic groups, but no longer report
these catches, potentially resulting in an unmeasured impact on
piscivore and carnivore biomass (Cooke and Crowx, 2006;Lewin
et al., 2006;Schroeder and Love, 2002). The decline in catch may
also be explained by the presence of ﬁshers from outside the Loreto
region within the park, who do not report their catch to the Loreto
CONAPESCA ofﬁce (Erisman et al., 2011). It is well known that
ﬁshing vessels from Guaymas ﬁsh at LBNP and land and sell their
catch on the mainland side of the Gulf (illegally) (B. Erisman pers
observations). These possibilities are ways in which ﬁshing may be
continuing within the park without regulations or any means to
monitor them. With the many caveats associated with the CON-
APESCA database, and without the ability to account for ﬁshing
effort, we cannot identify the reason why catch has decreased
beyond these speculations.
The underlying causes of the lack of recovery of ﬁsh assemblages
at LBNP may include weak ﬁshing regulations and lack of
enforcement of such regulations. It is also possible that some of the
legal ﬁshing methods used within the park are detrimental, par-
ticularly to spawning aggregations caught in gillnets (Erisman et al.,
2010). Gillnets are already restricted temporally and prohibited in
one area, but their continued use may be impeding the recovery of
apex predators, particularly since known spawning sites of targeted
groupers are not included in the restricted areas of the LBNP
(Carvajal et al., 2004;Erisman et al., 2007;Ulloa et al., 2006). Our
results add to previous examples showing that partial protection
does not result in signiﬁcant recovery of ﬁsh populations (Denny
and Babcock, 2004;Di Franco et al., 2009;Francour et al., 2001;
Shears et al., 2006).
The goal of LBNP’s management plan is to “preserve the natural
resources”, not explicitly to restore them, and to ensure “the social
development of the communities”, which we interpret as safe-
guarding livelihoods. The LBNP has met these objectives. We
remain, however, concerned that this success is in the preservation
of an already degraded environment, virtually indistinguishable
from the unprotected areas nearby. This is not a positive outcome in
any respect, nor is it how the LBNP is promoted publicly. One would
hope to detect a signiﬁcant recovery, especially in higher trophic
groups that are the focus of ﬁsheries in the area. We believe that in
order to have sustainable ﬁsheries and increase the beneﬁts (eco-
logical and economical) to the local community, recovery of
depleted ﬁsh assemblages is essential and should be a focus for
park managers in the future. Otherwise, one could also claim that
the unprotected areas nearby have been as successful as LBNP in
“preserving the natural resources”ewhich could render manage-
ment of LBNP as irrelevant.
The revised management plan expands the total no-take area
and incorporates areas known to harbor spawning aggregations,
which may facilitate ﬁsh assemblage recovery. Interviews with
ﬁshers in Loreto suggested that ﬁshers believe that MPAs are
beneﬁcial for tourism in the region, but that they see little beneﬁtto
their ﬁsheries (A. Rife unpublished data). However, the groundwork
has been laid by local NGOs and CONANP to engage user groups in
a dialogue regarding LBNP. These efforts have contributed to
a belief among local ﬁshers on the need for better management in
providing for sustainable ﬁsheries.
The creation of more and larger no-take marine reserves in LBNP
is likely to be a necessary step to restoring populations of targeted
ﬁshes, as well as other species (Aburto-Oropeza et al., 2011;
Wielgus et al., 2008). This should be associated with an increase in
both the CONANP and CONAPESCA staff and resources. The CON-
APESCA database on ﬁsh landings should be revised to include
some measure of effort and information regarding the number and
size of ﬁsh caught and both logbooks and port monitoring should
be required for commercial and sport ﬁshers. There is also a need
for revising ﬁshing regulations, management, and enforcement are
conducted, since ﬁsheries management and enforcement should be
an integral part of the management of any multi-use MPA.
Involvement of the local community in enforcement efforts should
be pursued in order to increase effectiveness (Cudney-Bueno and
Basurto, 2009). Finally, monitoring of the ﬁsh assemblages in the
park should continue in order to inform management and measure
success of the above suggestions.
We are grateful to the Department of the Environment of
Mexico (SEMARNAT), the Loreto Bay National Park Management
Authority, and the Reserve of the Islands of the Gulf of California for
providing research permits. We thank D. Squires, E. Ezcurra, S.
Sandin, G. Galland, P. Lozano, U. Méndez, I. Martínez-Tovar, G.
Paredes, L. Bourillon, L. Fisman, R. López-Espinosa, L. López-Lemus,
A. Mendoza, M. Reza, A. Saenz-Arroyo, J. Torre, and C. Viesca for
their assistance with data collection, advice, and for improving an
earlier draft of the manuscript.
Appendix A. Supplementary data
Supplementary data related to this article can be found at http://
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