Protected Mediterranean Reefs Show a Large Gain in Biomass and Diversity

A study of rocky reefs in the Mediterranean Sea shows that those accorded the highest protection, with all fishing prohibited, not only had a greater abundance and diversity of fish, but also demonstrated robust ecosystem health all the way down to the level of marine algae. Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and marine ecologist at the Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes in Spain, led a study of rocky reefs in numerous regions of the Mediterranean. The study found “remarkable variation in the structure of rocky reef ecosystems,” with a three-decade-old protected area off of Catalonia in Spain showing large numbers of predatory and other fish, while unprotected reefs off the Greek and Turkish coasts were “bare.” The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found that that there was not a significant difference in ecological health between reefs that were partially protected, allowing some fishing and other activities, and those that had no protection at all. The conclusion, said Sala, is that to fully protect reefs and nurture biodiversity on them, “no take” fishing zones must be established and strictly enforced.