Abstract: Spatial planning for coral reef fisheries management has, to date, focused almost exclusively on the design and implementation of ‘no-take’ marine reserves and reserve networks. However, few no-take marine reserves are well managed or adequately enforced, most are very small, and in many regions there exists a local tradition or preference for alternative management strategies. For example, in the Western Pacific, a diversity of different management strategies are employed within locally managed marine areas, including periodically harvested fisheries closures (PHCs), rotational closures, gear, species, and access restrictions. In Fiji, there are just a handful of permanent no-take marine reserves but hundreds of PHCs. PHCs evolved primarily to serve socio-cultural objectives: communities traditionally closed fishing grounds following the death of a respected community member and then reopened the area to harvest fish for the funeral. In contemporary use however, PHCs are often expected to achieve a wide range of objectives, including maximising yields in the short-term, boosting fisheries sustainability in the long-term, and contributing towards conservation goals. It remains unclear whether PHCs can achieve any or all of these objectives simultaneously, or what factors might be critical to their success. At present, the ability of regional-scale conservation plans to effectively inform local management is constrained by insufficient understanding of the relative effectiveness of different management strategies, and fishers’ preferences for these. I will outline research working towards improving this understanding, to provide guidance on how best to design and implement PHCs to achieve multiple objectives, and to better account for local management preferences in spatial planning.
Bio: Rebecca Weeks is a Senior Research Fellow with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Her research focuses on the design and implementation of conservation and natural resource management strategies in tropical developing countries. A central theme of her work is the importance of spatial scale – in particular, the need to reconcile regional-scale conservation planning with local-scale implementation in order to develop ecologically effective management that is supported by local resource users. In conducting her research, Rebecca collaborates closely with ecological and social scientists, conservation practitioners, and resource management stakeholders – from fishermen to policy makers at the highest level.