Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 06/2012

Are Closed Areas the Solution for Fisheries Management?

Cheryl Rita Kaur

February 2012

Maritime Institute of Malaysia


There is strong scientific consensus that closed areas contribute towards increased abundance of fish, protect against the risk of fishery collapse, and guard against the shortcomings of other environmental management tools. Studies at some areas have shown that protected spots experienced a rapid increase in fish numbers. While closed areas may offer promise for the conservation and management of marine fisheries and their habitats, there are however, mixed views on their benefits. Critics argue that most commercial species are too mobile to benefit from closed areas; whereas fishermen worry that it would reduce their fishing grounds, and thus affect their catches. Cheryl summarises that well enforced closed areas have great potential to maintain or enhance fishery catches and increase sustainability, but they cannot be considered as the solution to the problem of dwindling global fisheries stocks. The potential in improving fisheries management towards better yield will be limited unless the roots of management failures are addressed. These hugely requires reductions in fishing mortality, better enforcement strategies, improved design and selection of suitable sites as fisheries closed areas, and increased transboundary cooperation among countries on migratory fish species.