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Ningaloo Fishing Impacts Being Investigated

AUSTRALIA - The effect of recreational fishing on key fish populations in the Ningaloo Marine Park is being investigated as part of a Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship study of the effects of human activity on Ningaloo.

A Wealth from Oceans Flagship field scientist surrounded by a school of Gold-spot trevally on Ningaloo Reef

As part of the Flagship Collaboration Cluster on Ningaloo, a joint research team is monitoring and assessing the potential impacts of recreational fishing on key fish and invertebrate species, including spangled emperor, groper and rock lobsters. Ningaloo fishing impacts being investigated

The effect of recreational fishing on key fish populations in the Ningaloo Marine Park is being investigated as part of a Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship study of the effects of human activity on Ningaloo.

As part of the Flagship Collaboration Cluster on Ningaloo, a joint research team is monitoring and assessing the potential impacts of recreational fishing on key fish and invertebrate species, including spangled emperor, groper and rock lobsters.

According to CSIRO project leader Dr Russ Babcock, the team will also advise on the adequacy of zoning and future monitoring priorities.

The team – comprising scientists from the University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan University and CSIRO – is conducting surveys of the species’ composition, diversity and abundance.

“We’ve already gathered an enormous amount of data from nearly 500 locations throughout the length of Ningaloo Marine Park, including no-take and other zones, with divers counting all key fish species along over nearly 100 km of reef,” Dr Babcock says.

The researchers are also assessing the nature of any indirect effects of human activities on the structure of the Ningaloo fringing reef ecosystem and the movement and habitat-use of key fish species.

Dr Babcock says the project will enable planners to assess whether current management strategies are effective and appropriate. It will also provide a comprehensive baseline for future work.

“Preliminary results suggest that there may be significant changes in key species in the past 20 years, but it’s difficult to be certain because baseline data collected in the 1980s was very limited,” he says. “This program will help ensure that in the future we will be far more certain about whether the reef is changing and if this is due to human activities. The team is monitoring trends in the abundance of key species in different regions of the park, such as the importance of shallow weedy lagoon areas for juvenile emperor, and changes in species from north to south and across the reef.

“We’re pleased to see promising trends in sanctuary zones, but these are subtle and don’t seem at this stage to cause large-scale indirect changes in reef community structure between no-take and other areas,” Dr Babcock says.

The Wealth from Oceans Flagship Collaboration Cluster on Ningaloo aims to integrate knowledge of reef use, biodiversity and socio-economics into managing the Park. It combines the research capabilities of Murdoch University, Curtin University of Technology, the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, The University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan University, The Australian National University, The University of Queensland and CSIRO.

Dr Babcock will present some of the team’s preliminary results today at the 83rd Australian Coral Reef Society conference in Fremantle, Western Australia. The conference (9 - 11 October 2007) brings together more than 200 Australian and international marine researchers to explore the science and management of Australia’s coral reefs.

According to CSIRO project leader Dr Russ Babcock, the team will also advise on the adequacy of zoning and future monitoring priorities.

The team – comprising scientists from the University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan University and CSIRO – is conducting surveys of the species’ composition, diversity and abundance.

“We’ve already gathered an enormous amount of data from nearly 500 locations throughout the length of Ningaloo Marine Park, including no-take and other zones, with divers counting all key fish species along over nearly 100 km of reef,” Dr Babcock says.

The researchers are also assessing the nature of any indirect effects of human activities on the structure of the Ningaloo fringing reef ecosystem and the movement and habitat-use of key fish species.

Dr Babcock says the project will enable planners to assess whether current management strategies are effective and appropriate. It will also provide a comprehensive baseline for future work.

“Preliminary results suggest that there may be significant changes in key species in the past 20 years, but it’s difficult to be certain because baseline data collected in the 1980s was very limited,” he says. “This program will help ensure that in the future we will be far more certain about whether the reef is changing and if this is due to human activities.

The team is monitoring trends in the abundance of key species in different regions of the park, such as the importance of shallow weedy lagoon areas for juvenile emperor, and changes in species from north to south and across the reef.

“We’re pleased to see promising trends in sanctuary zones, but these are subtle and don’t seem at this stage to cause large-scale indirect changes in reef community structure between no-take and other areas,” Dr Babcock says.

The Wealth from Oceans Flagship Collaboration Cluster on Ningaloo aims to integrate knowledge of reef use, biodiversity and socio-economics into managing the Park. It combines the research capabilities of Murdoch University, Curtin University of Technology, the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, The University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan University, The Australian National University, The University of Queensland and CSIRO.

Dr Babcock will present some of the team’s preliminary results today at the 83rd Australian Coral Reef Society conference in Fremantle, Western Australia. The conference (9 - 11 October 2007) brings together more than 200 Australian and international marine researchers to explore the science and management of Australia’s coral reefs.

the Fish Site Editor

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