Scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University are set to study the impact of “yellow” conservation zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, examining how these ‘middle ground’ zones might help conserve fish stocks.
JCU’s Dr April Hall said while extensive research has been done on no-take (green) marine zones and open (blue) fishing zones, little work had been done on yellow zones which offer partial marine park protection.
“Yellow zones on the Great Barrier Reef act as a conservation ‘middle ground’, allowing limited fishing on reefs, whilst likely still gaining a conservation benefit, but little is known about their performance as a management tool,” she said.
Dr Hall and co-investigator Professor Mike Kingsford have been granted $180,000 to study the conservation zones. Dr Hall said the study will be the first to examine the effectiveness of yellow zones for conservation on the Great Barrier Reef.
The work will be performed in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), James Cook University, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and is co-funded by a Queensland Department of Science, Information, Technology, and Innovation Advance Queensland Research Fellowship.
“We’ll be looking at how the biodiversity of fishes in yellow zones compares to protected (green) zones and open (blue) zones, and to what extent yellow zones contribute to reef conservation,” she said.
Dr Hall said a previous study she had taken part in suggested yellow zones provided some protection for predators targeted by recreational fishers such as coral trout, emperors, and snappers, though not as much as green zones.
“So yellow zones may play a role in protecting coral reef food webs, but we need to more accurately assess this.”
Dr Hall said this research will help inform reef managers as to the biological importance of yellow zones in current and future zoning of the Great Barrier Reef.
“Yellow zones have the potential to provide access to reef resources for fishers, whilst allowing a level of protection for reef biodiversity.”
James Cook University: Dr April Hall, 0458 565 194, firstname.lastname@example.org
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: (07) 4750 0846 email@example.com
What is a Yellow Zone?
Fishing activities allowed in a Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone include:
Limited line fishing (one hand-held rod or one hand-held line per person, with no more than one hook attached to that line).
Trolling (no more than three lines per person and up to six hooks combined total per person).
Restriction on the number of commercial fishing vessels.
Limited spearfishing (snorkel only).
Limited crabbing (four crab pots, collapsible traps or dillies).
Limited collecting (includes oysters and bait, excludes take of coral, live or dead and anemones).
For a description of the full range of zones and their restrictions, see here.