Great Barrier Fish Rebound in MPAs, WWF, 09/04/06
Source: World Wildlife Fund
Great Barrier Reef, Australia – Recovery rates of fish in the Great Barrier Reef have increased significantly as a result of marine protected areas.
According to a study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University, populations of important fish species — such as coral trout — are up to 50 per cent more abundant in marine sanctuaries than in reefs still open to fishing. Research done on fringing reefs around the Whitsunday Islands showed coral trout and stripy sea perch up 60 per cent.
|The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system, is home to 1,500 species of fish, including the clownfish, red bass, red-throat emperor, and several species of snapper and coral trout.
© WWF-Canon / Jürgen Freund
“The results of the study demonstrate what scientists and conservationists having been saying for years, that creating marine sanctuaries means fish can mature and populations can recover,” said Richard Leck, a marine and coastal policy officer with WWF-Australia.
“What is truly exciting about this research is that not only are the protected areas flourishing but there is very likely to be a spillover effect to surrounding areas which will benefit the whole ecosystem. This research clearly shows that a network of marine sanctuaries with a strong zoning plan is vital to ensuring the sustainable future of the reef.”
Stretching for over 2,000km along Australia’s northeast coast, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system. Under a 2004 zoning plan, strict protection of the reef system rose from 4.6 per cent to 33 per cent within the existing Marine Park and World Heritage Area. The network of highly protected areas is aimed at reducing pressure on the Great Barrier Reef and enhancing its capacity to overcome large-scale threats such as coral bleaching, which is linked to climate change and global warming.
WWF is a strong advocate of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In the last few years alone, the global conservation organization has helped achieve protection for more than 200,000km2 of marine areas around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef, which cover coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangroves, fish breeding grounds, and deep-sea habitats.
“The results of the research add to increasing data from Australia and around the world showing that highly protected areas boost fish stocks and conserve marine biodiversity,” added Leck.
“We expect these benefits will be foremost in the minds of government planners in Australia as they embark on the next phase of establishing a national network of marine protected areas.”
• According to WWF around 4,600 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) were designated in 2005, protecting around 2.2 million km2, or 0.6%, of the world’s oceans. WWF's Global Marine Programme is working towards a network of effectively managed, ecologically representative MPAs covering at least 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020.