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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2011, Article ID 749131, 14 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2011/749131
Review Article

Tempering Expectations of Recovery for Previously Exploited Populations in a Fully Protected Marine Reserve

1Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, P.O. Box 1346, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA
2Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, NOAA, 6600 Kalaniana‘ole Highway no. 300, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA
3Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Services, NOAA, 2570 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

Received 15 June 2010; Revised 13 September 2010; Accepted 2 October 2010

Academic Editor: Benjamin S. Halpern

Copyright © 2011 Jennifer K. Schultz et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Centuries of resource extraction have impacted coral reef ecosystems worldwide. In response, area and fishery closures are often enacted to restore previously exploited populations and reestablish diminished ecosystem function. During the 19th and 20th centuries, monk seals, pearl oysters, and two lobster species were overharvested in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, now managed as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, one of the largest conservation areas in the world. Despite years of protection, these taxa have failed to recover. Here, we review each case, discussing possible factors that limit population growth, including: Allee effects, interspecific interactions, and time lags. Additionally, large-scale climate changes may have altered the overall productivity of the system. We conclude that overfishing of coral reef fauna may have broad and lasting results; once lost, valuable resources and services do not quickly rebound to pre-exploitation levels. In such instances, management options may be limited to difficult choices: waiting hundreds of years for recovery, actively restoring populations, or accepting the new, often less desirable, alternate state.