Lyme Bay marine protected area (MPA) is the UK’s first and largest example of an ambitious, whole-site approach to management, to recover and protect reef biodiversity. The whole-site approach applies consistent management, in this case excluding bottom towed fishing, across the full 206 km2 extend of the MPA, thus protecting a mosaic of reef-associated habitats from regular damage, while still allowing less destructive fishing methods, such as static gear, rod and line, and diving.

This paper assessed the effectiveness of this management strategy for mobile taxa and the sustainability for those taxa that continue to be targeted, by comparing exploited and non-exploited species’ populations inside the MPA, relative to open control sites spanning 11 of the 12 years of designation.

The results show that the number of taxa significantly increased in the MPA relative to the open controls while total abundance increased in both treatments. Exploited fish showed increases in number of taxa and total abundance inside the MPA over 11 years. Likewise, but to a lesser degree in the open controls, number of taxa of commercially exploited fish increased over time, potentially showing spillover effects from the MPA. On the other hand, non-exploited fish did not show such changes, and regardless of constituting the majority of the fishery value, highly valuable exploited invertebrates showed no significant changes over time.

The authors conclude that Lyme Bay MPA shows the importance of protecting a whole site, comprising mosaics of different benthic habitats, through protection of sessile organisms that contribute to essential fish habitats. It is highlighted that this ecosystem approach to fisheries management can benefit and maintain sustainable fisheries and species of conservation importance.

Davies et al. (2021) Ecosystem approach to fisheries management works – How switching from mobile to static fishing gear improves populations of fished and non-fished species inside a marine protected area. Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13986