Do Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) disadvantage fishermen? In a paper published in Nature Communications in August 2013, Dr Sven Kerwath (a research associate at UCT and scientist at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), postdoctoral fellow Dr Henning Winker, Dr Albrecht Götz of the Southern African Environmental Observation Network and Professor Colin Attwood of Ma-Re, set out to answer this question.
Their research focused on the roman (which most people know as the red roman, Chrysoblephus laticeps), a sea bream endemic to South Africa’s coast. Examining 15 years of data, they found that the establishment of the Goukamma MPA did not result in a drop in total catch, nor did the fleet have to travel greater distances to get the catch.
The suggestion is that roman left the MPA as fish densities built up, spilling out into areas where catching them was legal. In addition, a boost in roman egg production in the protected area would benefit unprotected areas too, as eggs drift with the currents.