Implementation of a marine reserve has a rapid but short-lived effect on recreational angler use

Marie L. Fujitani, Eli P. Fenichel, Jorge Torre, Leah Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Changes in human behavior are a precursor to measurable impacts of no-take marine reserves. We investigated changes in recreational fishing site selection in response to the 2005 announcement of enforcement in a marine reserve in the Gulf of California, Mexico. We used a novel data set of daily self-reported boating destinations from emergency rescue logbooks for a recreational angling community from 2000 to 2008. Because the reserve system has no experimental control, we modeled the data two ways to test for robustness to model specification. We tested for changes in human fishing behavior with regression and fit a fleetlevel discrete choice model to project a counterfactual scenario. The counterfactual is the statistically constructed ex post expectation of the human behavior we would have observed if the reserve never existed. We included month and year fixed effects in our models to account for seasonal and interannual fluctuations in fishing behavior and catch rates. We detected a decrease in reserve use compared to the counterfactual, indicating that the reserve rapidly experienced a decrease in visitation. However, the reserve's effect to reduce trips diminished with time. These results indicate that the reserve is unlikely to meet its ecological goals without institutional changes that enhance compliance. This illustrates the value of human use data to understanding the processes underlying marine reserve function. We suggest that managers should consider human use with the same frequency, rigor, and tools as they do fishery stocks. Marine reserves directly affect people, and understanding human behavioral responses to marine reserves is an important step in marine reserve management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-605
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Bahia de Kino, Gulf of California
  • Human behavior
  • Marine protected areas
  • Marine reserves
  • Monitoring
  • No-take areas
  • Recreational fishing
  • San Pedro Mártir Island, Mexico

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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