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Marine reserve effects on population density and size structure of commonly and rarely exploited limpets in South Africa

MDV Nakin
CD McQuaid


Marine reserves are commonly used to conserve living resources, but their effectiveness where policing is difficult is unclear. We compared monthly population density and size structure data collected over 20 months for two rarely and two commonly exploited intertidal limpets inside and outside reserves in South Africa. Densities were greater inside reserves, but significantly so in very few months. Unexpectedly, no significant reserve effect was detected for the territorial Scutellastra longicosta, shown by surveys to be favoured by harvesters. Reserve effects for the rarely exploited S. granularis probably result from indirect effects of higher barnacle cover in reserves where trampling is reduced, while interviews indicated that Cellana capensis is not targeted but large individuals are sometimes misidentified and hence are harvested outside the reserve. There were few reserve effects on mean or mean maximum size. The results indicate a gradient of exploitation among species and sites. One non-reserve site was more heavily exploited than the other, while one reserve experienced more poaching than the other. The effectiveness of marine reserves thus differed between reserves and among species. Exploited limpets were generally larger and at higher densities in reserves, but these effects were rarely statistically significant, indicating that reserve effects are weak compared to natural variability, probably reflecting ineffective policing.

Keywords: exploited sites, marine protected areas, poaching, rocky intertidal, subsistence harvesting

African Journal of Marine Science 2014, 36(3): 303–311