Human harvesting impacts on managed areas: ecological effects of socially-compatible shellfish reserves

Shankar Aswani, Carola F. Flores, Bernardo R. Broitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We examined how human harvesting impacts on managed areas affect the abundance and size distribution of the edible mangrove shellfish Anadara granosa and Polymesoda spp. in the Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands. We tested two hypotheses: (1) in areas permanently and temporally closed to human exploitation, abundance and size distribution of these shellfish species is significantly greater than in sites open to exploitation and (2) moderate human disturbance of shell beds, particularly of Polymesoda spp., increases their abundance. Firstly, we studied perceptions of environmental states and processes coupled to foraging and management interventions to assess sociocultural influences on harvesting practices and ascertain the types of management regime that people would consider in a context where poaching and interloping are common practices. Secondly, we compared shellfish abundance and shell size from areas that were permanently protected, temporally reserved for communal harvest, and permanently open for exploitation. Thirdly, drawing from women’s local knowledge, we measured the abundance of Polymesoda spp. in relation to mud compactness in quadrats across the three management regimes. Results showed that both species were significantly more abundant in permanent and temporally closed sites than in open sites. In the mud compactness study, however, while shell abundance was greater in moderately compacted quadrats, there was no statistical relationship between mud compactness and shell abundance within or across the three management regimes. Results suggest that even under the strong impacts of poaching, temporally closed areas have more clams than open areas and are as effective as areas that are permanently closed nominally. The results also suggest that human harvesting regimes can influence the effectiveness of local management decisions and thus are important when designing community-based conservation programs in the Solomon Islands and other Pacific Islands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-230
Number of pages14
JournalReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Ecological disturbance
  • Ecological impacts
  • Foraging
  • MPAs
  • Shellfish
  • Social acceptability
  • Solomon Islands


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