Spillover of commercially valuable reef fishes from marine protected areas in Guam, Micronesia

Mark H. Tupper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Does adult spillover (movement out of marine protected areas [MPAs]) of fish create a net export of fish biomass from MPAs to adjacent fished reefs? Biomass of five commercial reef fish species was estimated by visual census within and outside three MPAs in Guam, Micronesia. For most species and sites, biomass was significantly higher within the MPAs than in adjacent fished sites. Movement of fishes into and out of the MPAs was determined by mark-recapture experiments, in which fishes were tagged both inside and outside of MPAs. Four out of five species studied showed little or no net movement out of MPAs. However, the orangespine surgeonfish (Naso lituratus) showed a net spillover of biomass from all three MPAs; 21.5% of tagged individuals and 29% of the tagged biomass emigrated from MPAs. Patterns of spillover were strongly influenced by physical habitat barriers, such as channels, headlands, or other topographic features. MPAs that are physically connected by contiguous reef structures will likely provide more spillover to adjacent fished sites than those that are separated by habitat barriers. This study demonstrates that MPAs can enhance export of fish biomass to fished areas, but spillover is species-specific and depends on factors such as species size and mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-537
Number of pages11
JournalFishery Bulletin
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


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