As well as serving valuable biodiversity conservation roles, functioning no-take fishery reserves protect a portion of the fishery stock as insurance against future overfishing. So long as there is adequate compliance by the fishing community, it is likely that they will also sustain and even enhance fishery yields in the surrounding area. However, there are significant gaps in scientific knowledge that must be filled if no-take reserves are to be used effectively as fishery management tools. Unfortunately, these gaps are being glossed over by some uncritical advocacy. Here, we review the science, identify the most crucial gaps, and suggest ways to fill them, so that a promising management tool can help meet the growing challenges faced by coastal marine fisheries.