Friday, 27 March 2015

Great Barrier Reef protection zones help boost fish stocks 'to pre-European times'

Long-term study in the reef’s marine park finds an 80% difference in the biomass of coral trout between areas where fishing is allowed and no-go zones

Friday 27 March 2015 03.45 GMTLast modified on Friday 27 March 201503.48 GMT

The expansion of no-fishing zones across the Great Barrier Reef has allowed fish numbers to rebound in some places to levels not seen since European arrival in Australia, a long-term study of the ecosystem has shown.

Data taken from underwater surveys of about 40% of the reef’s marine park between 1983 and 2012 found that biomass of coral trout more than doubled in protected areas.

A separate analysis of two comparable reefs, one where fishing was allowed and one where it was banned, found an 80% difference in coral trout biomass.

Biomass is measured not only in the numbers of fish but also their size, demonstrating that coral trout, a popular species for fishers, grow much larger in no-fishing areas, allowing them to spawn more offspring.

About a third of the Great Barrier Reef’s marine park is off limits to any kind of fishing. These “green zones” were vastly expanded to their current size in 2004 – previously, only 5% of the marine park was fully protected.

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