A controversial attempt to rejuvenate fisheries in the Florida Keys appears to be paying off. In 1997, over the strong objections of some anglers, officials at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary banned fishing in a patchwork of 23 small coral reef reserves. Their action created one of the highest profile "no-take" zones in U.S. seas (Science, 25 July 1997, p. 489 ).
Now, preliminary results released last week show that spiny lobsters, groupers, and other economically important sealife are rebounding within the protected zones. Harvestable lobsters in 12 refuges, for instance, were about 3 millimeters longer than their unprotected cousins, suggesting they were living longer. "We are surprised how quickly animal populations are responding," says sanctuary science coordinator Ben Haskell. It is still too early, however, to measure the next hoped-for benefit of such preserves: serving as spawning grounds to replenish populations outside their boundaries.