Bode M, JN Sanchirico, PR Armsworth (2016) Returns from matching management resolution to ecological variation in a coral reef fishery. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 283(1826)

When managing heterogeneous socioecological systems, decision-makers must choose a spatial resolution at which to define management policies. Complex spatial policies allow managers to better reflect underlying ecological and economic heterogeneity, but incur higher compliance and enforcement costs. To choose the most appropriate management resolution, we need to characterize the relationship between management resolution and performance. We parameterize a model of the commercial coral trout fishery in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, which is currently managed by a single, spatially homogeneous management policy. We use this model to estimate how the spatial resolution of management policies affect the amount of revenue generated, and assess whether a more spatially complex policy can be justified. Our results suggest that economic variation is likely to be a more important source of heterogeneity than ecological differences, and that the majority of this variation can be captured by a relatively simple spatial management policy. Moreover, while an increase in policy resolution can improve performance, the location of policy changes also needs to align with ecological and socioeconomic variation. Interestingly, the highly complex process of larval dispersal, which plays a critical ecological role in coral reef ecosystem dynamics, may not demand equally complex management policies.