Marine protected areas (MPAs) have become popular tools worldwide for ecosystem conservation and fishery management. Fish assemblages can benefit from protection provided by MPAs, especially those that include fully no-take reserves. Fish response to protection can thus be used to evaluate the effectiveness of marine reserves. Most target fish are high-level predators and their overfishing may affect entire communities through trophic cascades. In the Mediterranean rocky sublittoral, marine reserves may allow fish predators of sea urchins to recover and thus whole communities to be restored from coralline barrens to macroalgae. Such direct and indirect reserve effects, however, are likely to be related to the enforcement implemented. In Italy, many MPAs that include no-take reserves have been declared, but little effort has been spent to enforce them. This is a worldwide phenomenon (although more common in some regions than others) that may cause MPAs and reserves to fail to meet their targets. We found that 3 of 15 Italian marine reserves investigated had adequate enforcement, and that patterns of recovery of target fish were related to enforcement. No responses were detected when all reserves were analyzed as a whole, suggesting enforcement as an important factor to be considered in future studies particularly to avoid that positive ecological responses in properly managed reserves can be masked by neutral/negative results in paper parks. Positive responses were observed for large piscivores (e.g. dusky groupers) and sea urchin predators at reserves where enforcement was effective. Those reserves with low or null enforcement did not differ from fished areas.
|Stato di pubblicazione||Published - 2008|