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Pedro Afonso, Jorge Fontes, Ricardo S. Santos – de 2011 - Small marine reserves can offer long term protection to an endangered fish – publicado em Biological Conservation

The protection of exploited species offered by marine reserves is maximised if individual fish live within the boundaries of the reserve for most of their lives. The direct benefit of this protection, the so called ‘reserve effect’, is the build-up of biomass through an increase in individual numbers and size. This effect can take several years depending on the life history traits of the target species. However, empirical studies on individual fish spatial behaviour at temporal scales long enough to be compatible with that of invoking the reserve effect are still virtually lacking. We studied the inter-annual patterns of habitat use of the dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus), an endangered reef fish predator, using passive acoustic telemetry inside and around a small marine reserve in the Azores, mid-north Atlantic. All 11 individuals resided in the reserve year-round for up to 5 years. During these periods, fish were detected nearly every day and utilised stable core activity areas. Two smaller fish apparently abandoned the area after some time, probably relocating outside the reserve. Our results indicate that even small marine reserves can promote the long-term recovery of some endangered species if the long-term behaviour (i.e. site fidelity) of individuals is appropriate. This result bears direct implications for most existing coastal marine reserves, given that they fall into the small size range and many overexploited reef fish species may be highly site attached.

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