Volume 61

Adaptive Management of Fish Spawning Aggregations on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Russell, M.
Download PDF Open PDF in Browser

Other Information

Date: November, 2008

Pages: 324

Event: Proceedings of the Sixty-First Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Gosier

Country: Guadeloupe


Fish spawning aggregations are managed in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as part of an adaptive and precautionary management process. In 2004, the area of the Marine Park closed to fishing under federal government marine park legislation was increased from 4% to 33% (114,530 sq km). This provides some protection to spawning aggregations. Six locations with known spawning aggregations for coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus), Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), and grunter (Pomadasys spp.) were specifically closed to fishing as part of this zoning. However, there are over 2900 reefs in the Marine Park, where little is known about spawning aggregations, and if they are adequately protected by management. Also in 2004, under state government fisheries legislation, seasonal fishing closures to protect peak spawning times of reef fish were introduced, size limits for many species were increased and recreational and commercial fishing catch limits were decreased. The seasonal closures occur during three, nine day periods over the new moons in October, November and December each year. The closures were based specifically on research information for coral trout spawning behaviour and the understanding that many other reef fish may spawn at similar times. It was a blanket fisheries management approach across the whole Great Barrier Reef in light of limited information. Fine-tuning the right balance of these management tools is ongoing. Community consultation, and cooperation between federal and state government resource management agencies is essential. In 2007, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority held an expertise and representative based stakeholder workshop to determine the management and research priorities for fish spawning aggregations on the Great Barrier Reef. 28 workshop participants considered the current management arrangements that include spatial and temporal area closures to provide suitable protection of spawning aggregations for most coral reef fish in the Marine Park. However, the stakeholders raised concerns about the limited scientific information on Great Barrier Reef fish spawning aggregations, and the need to modify the seasonal closures to reduce the socio-economic impact while still maintaining adequate protection of spawning fish. In addition to suggestions for reducing the seasonal closure times, nine fish species were identified as “species of special interest” for priority research. This includes the need for research on species-specific spawning behaviours to better determine how well the Marine Park closures and seasonal closures are protecting aggregations. The recommendations from the workshop are currently being used in determining appropriate protection strategies. Further information on the workshop discussions and recommendations is available in the workshop summary publication at: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/?a=899.

PDF Preview