1

People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.

2

Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution

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Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Coral reefs provide a range of benefits, such as food, opportunities for income and education, but not everyone has the same access to them, according to a new study conducted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

The researchers examined how people from 28 fishing communities in Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles benefit from the marine environment.

For many years conservation in developing countries has been based on the assumption that improvements in ecosystem conditions, such as increasing coral reef fish biomass, will benefit the community as a whole.

But Dr Christina Hicks, a social scientist, says this is approach is too simplistic.

“Increased supply tends to benefit the elite, not the community as a whole,” Dr Hicks says.

“We need to look at the social and economic access mechanisms that would enable a wider group of people to benefit from reefs and then develop policies based on that information,” she says.

Study co-author Professor Josh Cinner from the Coral CoE says the focus on increasing the supply of benefits isn’t enough.

“We need to pay more attention to how that benefit is distributed and how it is accessed by different people within a community,” Professor Cinner says.

The researchers argue that policy makers need a more inclusive approach to managing coral reefs, which includes a focus on improving wellbeing.

“We tend to focus on economic growth because it is easy to measure, but this should be greatly expanded to include the way people can share in the benefits that flow from reefs,” Dr Hicks says.

Paper

Social, institutional, and knowledge mechanisms mediate diverse ecosystem service benefits from coral reefs by Christina C. Hicks and Joshua E. Cinner is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/11/26/1413473111.long

Contacts

Dr Christina Hicks, +61 (0) 466 437 490 christina.hicks@jcu.edu.au

Professor Joshua Cinner, +61 (0) 417 714 138, joshua.cinner@jcu.edu.au

Eleanor Gregory, Coral CoE Media, +61 (0) 428 785 895, eleanor.gregory@jcu.edu.au

Conservation scientists say there needs to be a new approach to protecting offshore marine reserves.

Illegal fishing in marine reserves will be a major focus at the IUCN World Parks Congress, which has opened in Sydney.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University, who are attending the conference, have found a way to predict illegal fishing activities to help authorities better protect marine reserves.

Marine reserves are the most common strategy used to protect and maintain marine ecosystems around the world.

The International Convention of Biological Diversity aims to have 10 per cent of the world’s marine areas protected by 2020.

Many countries are contributing to this target by protecting remote, offshore areas. For example, the United States recently created the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve, covering almost 1.27 million square kilometres in the central Pacific Ocean.

But scientists are concerned that while a great deal of effort is being made to create reserves, many countries are simply not able to enforce the laws that are supposed to protect them.

The majority of fishers obey the law, but some don’t.

fishing gear. Image: Todd Steiner, Sea Turtle Restoration Project

“The success of protected areas depends on whether people comply with the regulations,” says Professor Joshua Cinner from Coral CoE.

“Enforcement and compliance issues for large off-shore marine parks are fundamentally different to near-shore protected areas,” Professor Cinner says.

He explains that the biggest problems facing countries trying to enforce offshore marine reserves is their distance from land and the difficulty and cost of patrolling large tracts of ocean.

“The distances to these areas can be very large. They are a long way from prying eyes and quite often the regulations are such that you have to actually catch people illegally fishing to prosecute them,” Professor Cinner says.

“It can be extremely difficult for authorities to catch illegal fishers in the act.”

In a bid to combat the problem, researchers at Coral CoE examined five years’ worth of data collected from the World Heritage-listed Cocos Island National Park, a unique marine protected area in the Pacific Ocean about 500 kilometres off the west coast of Costa Rica.

From the records they were able identify illegal fishing patterns and predict both when and where illegal fishing was likely to happen.

They found that illegal fishing was concentrated in a few ‘hotspots’ and really ramped up during specific lunar phases of some months.

Professor Bob Pressey, also from Coral CoE, says authorities could use this knowledge to match patrols to the time and place when illegal fishers are most likely to be in action.

“Using a targeted approach helps authorities catch and deter illegal fishers, while saving money on patrols,” Professor Pressey says.

“Rather than just hoping you can catch illegal fishers effectively by random patrols, we have used previous patrols to look for patterns which tell us when and where people fish illegally,” adds Professor Cinner.

Study lead author, Coral CoE PhD candidate, Adrian Arias says the model of predicting illegal patterns from old records can be used to increase the success of patrols in other locations.

“Our research in Costa Rica showed how a systematic and periodic analysis of patrol records can help to increase the probability of catching illegal fishers. This could be done pretty much anywhere that patrol data are available,” he says.

Professor Cinner adds that by better targeting limited resources, authorities have a greater chance of successfully protecting marine parks.

“Targeting resources is particularly important for developing countries such as Costa Rica, which have taken on the conservation challenge but don’t have the same funding to ensure compliance as a country such as Australia.”

Paper

Optimizing enforcement and compliance in offshore marine protected areas: a case study from Cocos Islands, Costa Rica by Adrian Arias, Robert L. Pressey, Rhondda E. Jones, Jorge G Alvarez-Romero and Joshua E. Cinner is published in the journal, Oryx.   http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605314000337

Contact

Professor Josh Cinner, Coral CoE – +61 7 4781 6751, Joshua.cinner@jcu.edu.au

Professor Bob Pressey, Coral CoE – +61 7 4781619, bob.pressey@jcu.edu.au

Eleanor Gregory, Communications Manager, Coral CoE – +61 (0) 428 785 895,
eleanor.gregory@jcu.edu.au

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au