Fish thrive in the Keppel Islands marine park. Picture: AP Source: The Daily Telegraph
THE first conclusive evidence that no-fishing zones in marine parks increase fish in neighbouring areas has been revealed by Australian scientists.
One of the main concerns of recreational and commercial fishers has been the lack of formal proof that no-take zones in marine parks have an effect beyond their borders.
"Using DNA fingerprinting technology, we now can clearly show that the benefits of (marine parks) spread beyond reserve boundaries, providing a baby bonus to fisheries," said Professor Geoff Jones of ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) and James Cook University, who led the study presented yesterday at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns.
In the ground-breaking study, scientists tracked the dispersal pathways of juvenile coral trout and stripey snapper larvae from marine park protection zones in the Keppel Island group on the Great Barrier Reef.
They found that 65 per cent settled in nearby areas that are open to fishing.
Most of the baby fish settled within 1km-5km of the reserves but a significant proportion dispersed 10km or more.
The study found that the six marine reserves, which cover 28 per cent of the total reef area of the Keppels, had generated 50 per cent of the juvenile fish found both inside and outside of the no-fishing reserves.
"This means there would have been a lot less fish if the no-take areas weren't there," said Leanne Fernandes, a leading advocate of no-take zones.