When are no-take zones an economically optimal fishery management strategy?
Discussions on the use of marine reserves (no-take zones) and, more generally, spatial management of fisheries are, for the most part, devoid of analyses that consider the ecological and economic effects simultaneously. To fill this gap, we develop a two-patch ecological-economic model to investigate the effects of spatial management on fishery profits. Closing areas to fishing is an economically optimal solution when the value derived from spillover from the reserve outweighs the value of fishing in the patch. The condition is more likely to be satisfied when the closed area is a net exporter of biomass and has higher costs of fishing, and for fish populations with density-independent settlement ("adult movement") than with density-dependent settlement ("larval dispersal"). Rather surprisingly, there are circumstances whereby closing low biological productivity areas, and even sometimes low cost areas to fish, can result in greater profits than when both areas are open to fishing.