Protected areas preserve natural behaviour of a targeted fish species on coral reefs

Bergseth, Brock J., Williamson, David H., Frisch, Ashley J., and Russ, Garry R. (2016) Protected areas preserve natural behaviour of a targeted fish species on coral reefs. Biological Conservation, 198. pp. 202-209.

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Marine protected areas are increasingly being implemented to attain a variety of conservation and fisheries management objectives. Although rarely considered, protection of targeted species within these areas may also conserve behaviours (e.g. boldness) that are often the first removed by human exploitation. Here we examine fish behaviour in fished, no-take, and no-entry management zones for a highly targeted reef fish species (coral trout; Plectropomus leopardus) on coral reefs in two regions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia. Using three behavioural metrics (flight-initiation distance, pre-flight behaviour, and escape trajectories), we demonstrate how protected areas, particularly no-entry zones, can effectively conserve naive or bold behavioural traits in fish populations. Flight-initiation distance was consistently highest in fished zones, but the effects of protection afforded by no-take and no-entry zones varied by study region. Flight-initiation distance was consistently higher for fish above the minimum legal retention size limit, except in no-entry zones of the southern region. This indicates that no-entry zones may be maintaining near-natural, pre-exploitation behaviour, which could have considerable implications for the genetic and social structures of a highly valuable commercial species. Conservation and fisheries management would therefore benefit from an increased understanding of how fish behaviour can influence population structures, and how these populations may be influenced by fishing and other human interactions.

Item ID: 45505
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-2917
Keywords: no-entry zones, escape trajectories, marine reserves, fishing, fish behaviour, behavioural traits
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 4 of the following PhD thesis: Bergseth, Brock J. (2018) Poaching in marine protected areas: drivers of and responses to illegal fishing. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC Laureate Fellow PhD Scholarship
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2016 07:35
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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