New solutions needed for extinction prevention and for sustainable management of marine resources

Overfishing and overuse of coastal regions have severely damaged marine habitats. New socioeconomic and ecological strategies are urgently needed to manage fisheries sustainably and preserve marine resources, Stanford scientists say. Only such action can ensure the long-term survival of marine ecosystems and the profitability of fisheries.

Reserves should set aside at least 30 percent of the habitat of a given species to have any serious assurance of long-term profitability, as well as to guard against risk of extinction, says Stanford Professor Joan Roughgarden, an ecologist who will present her model for sustainability of marine resources Feb. 15 during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston. Roughgarden, who will present her research at a symposium titled Community-Based Marine Resource Management: Incentives for Sustainable Management and Conservation, is a pioneer in applying economic theories to ecological problems. The 30 percent set-aside rule is the result of a new model that computes the best strategy that small-scale sustainable fisheries can employ to optimize profit and social welfare. To determine the best strategy for managing fisheries, Roughgardens model includes for the first time ever the risk of extinction.

It is a fundamental thing to take risk of extinction into account, which until now hasnt been done in economic theories, Roughgarden says. In her role as a scientific adviser for the establishment of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, Calif., Roughgarden applied her model to define the size of no-fishing zones. In these protected areas, fish stocks can recuperate and refill harvest zones through spillover.

For a sustainable harvest aimed at maximizing long-term welfare of the fishery, at least one-third of the fish habitat has to be protected, Roughgardens model demonstrates. Smaller habitat size will not ensure the survival of marine re

Contact: Dawn Levy
Stanford University

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