A Marine Reserve Boosts Lobster Abundance and Size
Situated off the southwest coast of England, Lundy is home to species living in diverse habitats, including rocky reefs, sea caves, underwater canyons and sandy bottoms. To further protect habitat and species within a larger existing MPA, a 3.3 km2 area along the coast of Lundy was designated in 2003 as the first marine reserve in the UK. Some local fishermen supported the Lundy marine reserve in the hopes that they would see higher catches of European lobster, an important commercial species, outside the reserve.
From 2003-2007, scientists monitored lobsters inside the Lundy marine reserve as well as in surrounding fished areas. They detected increases in sizes and numbers of lobster after only 18 months of full protection. By 2007, legal-sized lobsters were 5 times more abundant within the reserve than in fished areas. Scientists also found that lobsters were 9% larger inside the reserve than in the fished areas (see figures below). Legal-sized lobsters adjacent to the reserve had not increased in size or abundance within the 4 years of the study. However, there was an increase in abundance of sub-legal lobsters adjacent to the reserve during the study.
The Lundy marine reserve is small compared to others around the globe. The rapid increase in lobster size and abundance at Lundy, however, suggests that even a small reserve may benefit some species. Over time, further increases in size and biomass may lead to increases in the number of lobsters migrating to areas outside the reserve, which would benefit the lobster fishery. In Columbretes marine reserve in Spain, for example, lobsters increased in abundance and biomass for a decade before contributing to increased lobster catches in nearby fished areas.
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