A mix of marine reserves is important to fish

Written by on August 22, 2016 in Coral Reefs, Fish, Marine Life

Predatory fish play an important role in coral reefs. Last week, we wrote about how fish pee (particularly large, predatory fish pee) is important to reefs, but the presence or absence of these big fish can also have a big impact on their prey.

Reef fish. Photo credit: April Hall.

Reef fish. Photo credit: April Hall.

A new study from James Cook University (JCU) examined whether or not the fishing of predators had an effect on the reproductive capabilities of their prey.

The researchers studied bridled monocle bream in two different areas: marine reserves where no fishing occurs and open zones, which are heavily fished.

“We predicted that in marine reserves, where predators were abundant, prey would allocate more energy to predator avoidance compared to fished zones with fewer predators, and that this would affect their growth and reproduction,” lead author Dr. April Hall explained in a news release.

They found just that. In the marine reserve where predators were abundant, the bream had reduced growth, poorer body condition, and reduced reproductive capacity. In fished areas, the lack of predators resulted in faster-growing bream with increased reproductive capacity.

“It’s important to recognise that this pattern of predators influencing prey is a natural process, and marine reserves are the best way to ensure that this process continues,” Dr. Hall said.

The authors also note that a mix of different management zones is important because fish populations in different areas are still connected.

This finding “provides support for the multi-zone system of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” Dr. Hall said.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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