The net movement of individuals from marine reserves (also known as no-take marine protected areas) to the remaining fishing grounds is known as spillover and is frequently used to promote reserves to fishers on the grounds that it will benefit fisheries.
Here we consider how mismanaged a fishery must be before spillover from a reserve is able to provide a net benefit for a fishery. For our model fishery, density of the species being harvested becomes higher in the reserve than in the fished area but the reduction in the density and yield of the fished area was such that the net effect of the closure was negative, except when the fishery was mismanaged.
The extent to which effort had to exceed traditional management targets before reserves led to a spillover benefit varied with rates of growth and movement of the model species. In general, for well-managed fisheries, the loss of yield from the use of reserves was less for species with greater movement and slower growth. The spillover benefit became more pronounced with increasing mis-management of the stocks remaining available to the fishery.
This model-based result is consistent with the literature of field-based research where a spillover benefit from reserves has only been detected when the fishery is highly depleted, often where traditional fisheries management controls are absent. We conclude that reserves in jurisdictions with well-managed fisheries are unlikely to provide a net spillover benefit.