CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship scientists in collaboration with EPA Queensland have nearly completed the first stage of a three year research program to evaluate the effectiveness of the expanded green zones soon to come into effect in the Moreton Bay Marine Park.
The Marine Park stretches 125 km from Caloundra to the Gold Coast and covers about 3400km². Currently only 0.5 per cent of the park is designated as ‘green zones’ (where all fishing is excluded) but this will increase to 16 per cent on 1 March 2009.
Project leader Dr Russ Babcock says that the increase in protected areas is highly significant for the local marine environment.
“The imminent re-zoning of the Moreton Bay Marine Park brings with it the need to understand the effect of protected zones on the conservation of key marine animals and also on the way people use the marine park,” Dr Babcock says.
This knowledge will contribute to the planning of future marine protected areas around Australia.
To determine the effectiveness of the zones on recreationally and commercially important species, Dr Babcock’s team are tagging and monitoring the size, number and distribution of crabs and fish using current green zones as well as the new green zones and sites outside of the protected areas.
In addition, baited remote stereo underwater video cameras are used in deeper water, especially on the rocky offshore reefs. The video footage is also used to identify, count and measure fish within and outside the protected zones.
“The project will objectively monitor the effectiveness of the re-zoning of Moreton Bay Marine Park, providing a sound basis for future decision making and long term monitoring in the park,” Dr Babcock says.
The research is showing that existing marine park green zones are effective conservation tools.
“We have found between four and 11 times more legal sized male mud crabs in sanctuary zones, fish catch rates also show a similar trend with many more legal sized fish in sanctuary zones,” says team member Mick Haywood.
“Our work will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these zones, assisting in planning and decision making to ensure we are preserving the marine environment in the best possible way for all users of the bay.”
The scientists are using thin yellow tags about the size of a matchstick to tag both fish and crabs. The public are asked to assist the research by reporting details of any tagged animals (size, location, date, tag number) by contacting Suntag on the 1800 number found on the tag. The public should not be concerned if research boats are seen working in green zones.
CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.
Contact: Ms Edwina Hollander, 61 8 9333 6569 , Edwina.Hollander@csiro.au