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Study Finds Tortugas Ecological Reserve Yields More Fish

Feb. 5, 2013
Red grouper and coral

Key West commercial fishery landings had an estimated value of $56 million in 2011, up from $40 million in 2001, according to NOAA Fisheries of the United States reports. Ocean recreation and tourism support approximately 33,000 jobs in the Florida Keys.

A new NOAA research report finds that both fish populations and commercial and recreational anglers have benefitted from "no-take" protections in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The report, "An Integrated Biogeographic Assessment of Reef Fish Populations and Fisheries in Dry Tortugas: Effects of No-take Reserves," is the first to evaluate how the 151-square nautical mile Tortugas Ecological Reserve affects the living marine resources of the region and the people whose livelihoods are connected to them.

The report's analysis of long-term socioeconomic and scientific information found that after the ecological reserve was designated in 2001:

Contributors to the report included researchers from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, University of Massachusetts, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, and the University of Miami.

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The 151-square nautical mile Tortugas Ecological Reserve was designated by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in 2001, and its design involved extensive collaboration between commercial and recreational fishermen, divers, scientists, conservationists, citizens-at-large, and resource managers. The reserve is closed to all consumptive use, including fishing and anchoring, and a portion of it is open to permitted marine researchers only.

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