Marine Reserves and the Restoration of Fisheries and Marine Ecosystems in the South China Sea

T. J. Pitcher, R. Watson, N. Haggan, S. Guénette, R. Kennish, U. R. Sumaila, D. Cook, K. Wilson, A. Leung, (2000). Bulletin of Marine Science 66, 543-566.

The South China Sea has been devastated by human fishing. This paper reports an initiative to restore Hong Kong’s marine ecosystems and fisheries through the deployment of artificial reefs (ARs) within marine protected areas (MPAs). Current catch and biomass data by species and fishery sector were available. Quasi-spatial ecosystem simulations, using a modified ECOSIM method, have been employed to forecast benefits from a successful MPA/ AR system. Results indicate that, despite increasing fishing power in the Hong Kong fleet, a 10-20% MPA/AR system could provide significant benefits within 10 yrs, and shifts to low-value pelagic fish could be reversed. Approximate scores, expressing how species benefit from protectedARs, suggest that results are not biased by changes in species composition. The design of MPA/ ARs balances island biogeographic theory with the needs of monitoring and compliance: minimizing perimeter losses and establishing colonizing corridors are trade-offs with statistical replication and monitoring, whereas sacrifice of some ARs to fishing encourages compliance and learning. In Hong Kong, workshops with fishing communities encouraged support. Bioeconomic analysis shows an MPA/ AR system increasing fishery value, but noncompliance rapidly erodes benefits. The benefits of this approach are assessed together with problems and difficulties that have arisen.