Elevated trawling inside protected areas undermines conservation outcomes in a global fishing hot spot
20 / 12 / 2018, Science Now
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly used as a primary tool to conserve biodiversity. This is particularly relevant in heavily exploited fisheries hot spots such as Europe, where MPAs now cover 29% of territorial waters, with unknown effects on fishing pressure and conservation outcomes. We investigated industrial trawl fishing and sensitive indicator species in and around 727 MPAs designated by the European Union. We found that 59% of MPAs are commercially trawled, and average trawling intensity across MPAs is at least 1.4-fold higher as compared with nonprotected areas. Abundance of sensitive species (sharks, rays, and skates) decreased by 69% in heavily trawled areas. The widespread industrial exploitation of MPAs undermines global biodiversity conservation targets, elevating recent concerns about growing human pressures on protected areas worldwide.