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The importance of habitat quality for marine reserve fishery linkages

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We model marine reserve - fishery linkages to evaluate the potential contribution of habitat-quality improvements inside a marine reserve to fish productivity and fishery catches. Data from Mombasa Marine National Park, Kenya, and the adjacent fishery are used. Marine reserves increase total fish biomass directly by providing refuge from exploitation and indirectly by improving fish habitat in the reserve. As natural mortality of the fish stock decreases in response to habitat enhancement in the reserve, catches increase by up to 2.6 tonnes (t).km(-2).year(-1) and total fish biomass by up to 36 However, if habitat-quality improvement reduces the propensity of fish to move out of the reserve, catches may fall by up to 0.9 Our results indicate that habitat protection in reserves can underpin fish productivity and, depending on its effects on fish movements, augment catches.

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