Fish Living in Marine Reserves are “More Catchable”

Written by on November 13, 2012 in Marine Life

New research shows that fish that have grown up in marine reserves are naïve and let spear-fishers get a lot closer than fish that did not grow up in a marine reserve.

“There are plenty of reports of fish, both adults and juveniles, moving out of reserves and into the surrounding sea.  Having grown up in an area where they were protected from hunting, we wondered how naïve they would be with regard to avoiding danger from humans,” explained Fraser Januchowski-Hartley of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

“Educated fish normally turn tail and flee when a diver armed with a spear gun approaches within firing range of them.  The typical flight distance is usually just over four meters,” he said.

Spearfisher off the coast of Okinoerabu, Ryu-Kyu Islands, Japan.

Spearfisher off the coast of Okinoerabu, Ryu-Kyu Islands, Japan. Photo credit Guy Keulemans.

“However in our studies of marine reserves in the Philippines, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, where spearfishing remains a major way of harvesting table fish, we discovered that reserve-reared fish were much less wary and allowed people to get much closer.”

The Australian research team studied fish out to 200 meters beyond the boundary, inside and outside of the reserve.  They found that fish growing up outside of reserves were much more suspicious of fishers and took flight from fishers at distance of one to two meters further than fish living in the reserve.

This could be good news for marine reserves.

Fishers are more likely to catch fish straying from the reserve, which improves the local harvest.  If this continues, it may make fishers more supportive of marine reserves.

“It is important that local fishers feel they are deriving some benefit from having a local area that is closed to fishing, or they may not respect it,” explained Dr. Nick Graham, co-author of the study.

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Copyright © 2012 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 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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