A recent study shows that marine reserves that prohibit all types of fishing can help replenish fish populations of near-by reefs. Researchers used DNA fingerprinting technology to track where juvenile coral trout (Plectropomus maculatus) and striped snappers (Lutjanus kasmira) went after they were born in the marine reserves off the Keppel Island group on the Great Barrier Reef. The scientists determined that many of the fish settled on reefs outside the marine reserve area, in some cases more than 18 miles from where the fish were born. These results show that marine reserves can have significant positive impacts not only in the reserve area but also in the larger general area outside of the reserve.
“We found that the marine reserves, which cover about 28 percent of the 700-hectare reef area of the Keppels, had in fact generated half the baby fish, both inside and outside of the reserves,” said lead author Hugo Harrison of CoECRS and James Cook University. “The study provides conclusive evidence that fish populations in areas open to fishing can be replenished from populations within marine reserves.”
The study, “Larval Export From Marine Reserves and the Recruitment Benefit for Fish and Fisheries,” was published May 24, 2012, in Current Biology. The study was funded by the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF), the Australian Research Council and the Packard Foundation; researchers hailed from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS), the United States, France, French Polynesia and Saudi Arabia.