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Pina-Amargós F, González-Sansón G, Martín-Blanco F, Valdivia A.2013. Evidence for protection of targeted reef fish on the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean. PeerJ PrePrints1:e76v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.76v1
Effective marine reserves can restore fish abundance and diversity in areas impacted by overfishing, but the outcomes of some reserves in developing countries where resources for enforcement are limited have seldom been evaluated. Here we assess whether the establishment of the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean has had a positive effect on the abundance of commercially valuable reef fish species in relation to neighboring unprotected areas. We surveyed 25 sites including two reef habitats (reef crest and reef slope) inside and outside the marine reserve Gardens of the Queen in Cuba over a 1.5-year period. Densities of the most targeted reef fish species were significantly higher inside than outside the reserve in both habitats. This trend was mostly consistent over time. Supporting evidence from previously published studies in the area indicates that habitat complexity, benthic communities, and the intensity of fishing pressure were similar inside and outside the reserve before reserve establishment. Additionally, reported differential fish behavior towards divers inside and outside the reserve and relative low poaching inside the reserve supported our results. Therefore, the differences observed during the study in the density of targeted reef fish among non-reserve and reserve sites have likely resulted from protection.
3Currently at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Tequesta Field Laboratory, Tequesta, FL, USA.