Banning or restricting the use of certain types of fishing gear could help the world's coral reefs and their fish populations survive the onslaughts of climate change.
An international team of scientists led by Dr Josh Cinner of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University has proposed that bans on fishing gear - like spear guns, fish traps, beach seine nets, and gill nets could aid in the recovery of reefs and fish populations hard hit by coral bleaching events.
Around the world corals have been dying at alarming rates, due to unusually warm water events resulting from global warming.
Research carried out in Kenya and Papua New Guinea has shown that certain types of gear are more damaging to corals, to coral-dependent fish and to the key species of fish that are needed to help reefs recover from bleaching or storm damage.
"This is creating a double jeopardy for both the corals and certain types of reef fish. They are already on the edge because of the overfishing and the additional impact caused by a bleaching even can push them over" Dr Cinner explains. The result can be an accelerated decline of the reef, its fish populations and their ability to sustain local people.
"From an ecological perspective, the best response to bleaching is to close reefs to fishing entirely. But that is not feasible everywhere and is a particularly hard sell among the impoverished fishers in developing countries" says co-author Dr. Tim McClanahan of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "In areas where fishery closures are impractical, managers don't have many options and haven't been able to do much but watch the reef die and often not recover."
"Selective gear restrictions offer reef managers and fishers alike some middle ground, reducing pressure on the reef and its fish while it is in the recovery phase, while also providing fishers with some options for their livelihood" Dr Cinner says.
|Contact: Joshua Cinner|
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies