Marine protected areas may just help to protect species, according to a recent study published in the PLoS ONE journal that details a 463 percent increase in the number of fish in Mexico’s Cabo Pulmo marine reserve over the last 10 years. The study, “Large Recover of Fish Biomass in a No-Take Marine Reserve” by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography employed a team of researchers who collected data in the reserve over the last 10 years and documented changes to that data that led to the good news for the marine reserve. Scientists, such as Dr. Liz Whiteman, program director with the MPA Monitoring Enterprise, a program with the California Ocean Science Trust, is hopeful that the study of the Cabo Pulmo will serve as a benchmark when it comes to study the marine protected areas (MPA) in California. The MPA along California’s Central Coast will be the first areas of study in the state. They will be studied in 2012.
Cabo Pulmo was dedicated a marine preserve by the Mexican government in 1995. It encompasses 7,111 hectares of land and surrounding water. Its hard coral reef is home to more than 800 species of marine animals, including corals such as Pocillopora verrucosa and Pocillopora capitata, and marine invertebrate species including the Wood’s brown cone (Conus brunneus) and the prince cone (C. princeps). There is also a healthy population of sharks, apex reef predators that are a sign a reef is doing well, according to the report.
While the ocean and immediate areas of the reserve seem to be protected for now, the Mexican government green lighted a resort, some say on the scale of a Cancun with various hotels, condominiums, a marina, and helipad just three miles from Cabo Pulmo.
Read the full study here