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Links between sex change and fish densities in marine protected areas

TitleLinks between sex change and fish densities in marine protected areas
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsMolloy P-P, Côté I-M, Mosqueira I, Gage M-J-G, Renoyls J-D
Journal Biological Conservation
KeywordsAtlantic, conservation, density, fish, fish abundance, fish density, fishery, Indian ocean, marine protected area, Mediterranean sea, Pacific, protected area, protection, protection effectiveness, protection measure, review, size

Sex change is widespread among marine fishes, including many species that are fished heavily, and is thought to be of conservation concern under some circumstances. As such, an important question in conservation is whether the implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs), which is a commonly used marine conservation tool, works as effectively for sex-changers as for non-sex-changers. To address this issue, we used meta-analyses of the ratio of fish abundances inside vs. outside MPAs to determine whether sex change affects the extent to which fish densities respond to protection. When all data were considered, there were similar responses to protection irrespective of reproductive mode. However, when analyses were restricted to older reserves (at least 10 years' protection), female-first sex-changers consistently benefited from protection.Non-sex-changers and male-first sex-changers showed more variable responses to protection and, as a result, there were no significant differences between fish with different reproductive modes in their overall response to protection. The same results were observed when the effects of fisheries status (targeted vs. not targeted) were controlled.Our results support the use of MPAs as important components of conservation and demonstrate that old reserves are most consistently beneficial to female-first sex-changing species. Finally, our results highlight the fact that some effects of protection are only detectable after several generations.

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