The Tortugas Integrated Assessment

photo of dry tortugas

The reports, executive summaries and fact sheets found here are the products of the Integrated Assessment led by NOAA, National Ocean Service's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). The Tortugas Integrated Biogeographic Assessment presents a unique analysis of demographic changes in living in living resource populations, as well as societal and socioeconomic benefits that resulted from the Tortugas Ecological Reserve during the first five years after implementation in July 2001.

The two main goals of this assessment were to determine:

  1. If expected demographic changes such as increases in abundance, average size and spawning potential of exploited populations occurred in the Tortugas region after reserve implementation, and
  2. Whether short-term economic losses occurred to fishers displaced by the reserve.

The integration and analysis of historical and current biological, physical and economic data represents the first effort to evaluate the impact of reserve designation has on both living marine resources of the Tortugas region and the people whose livelihoods are connected to them.

Socioeconomic Impacts of the Tortugas Ecological Reserve

Here we provide the two chapters of the main report that address the socioeconomic impacts along with an Executive Summary and a one page fact sheet.

The key finding was that the short-run negative impacts projected on both the commercial and recreational fisheries in the Initial Assessment did not occur. There were three main reasons for this outcome:

  1. Socioeconomics was used for the first time to advise a stakeholder working group in designing the regulatory alternative. This allowed stakeholders that would be potentially impacted to design the reserve in such a way that it could achieve its ecological objectives while minimizing any socioeconomic impacts. By design, stakeholders were able to produce an alternative that they could adjust to without losses.
  2. The usual economic assumption used in projecting future results from displacement from no-take reserves was not supported by the monitoring data. The assumption that there would be "opportunity costs" (losses) is based on the assumption that commercial fishers had perfect knowledge and were choosing sites for reef fish that maximized their profits pre-implementation of the reserve. Post-implementation of the reserve revealed that fishermen discovered reef fish sites they had never fished before and reef fish catch increased.
  3. The original biological assessment that all reef fish throughout the Florida Keys was overfished pre-implementation of the reserve was also incorrect. The places that fishermen found after being displaced resulted in increased reef fish catch. These areas were not included in the fishery independent samples used by the biologists.